Quarter of Men in South Africa Admit Rape, Survey Finds

From The Guardian:

One in four men in South Africa have admitted to rape and many confess to attacking more than one victim, according to a study that exposes the country’s endemic culture of sexual violence.

Three out of four rapists first attacked while still in their teens, the study found. One in 20 men said they had raped a woman or girl in the last year.

South Africa is notorious for having one of the highest levels of rape in the world. Only a fraction are reported, and only a fraction of those lead to a conviction.

The study into rape and HIV, by the country’s Medical Research Council (MRC), asked men to tap their answers into a Palm Pilot device to guarantee anonymity. The method appears to have produced some unusually frank responses.

Professor Rachel Jewkes of the MRC, who carried out the research, said: “We have a very, very high prevalence of rape in South Africa. I think it is down to ideas about masculinity based on gender hierarchy and the sexual entitlement of men. It’s rooted in an African ideal of manhood.”

Jewkes and her colleagues interviewed a representative sample of 1,738 men in South Africa’s Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

Of those surveyed, 28% said they had raped a woman or girl, and 3% said they had raped a man or boy. Almost half who said they had carried out a rape admitted they had done so more than once, with 73% saying they had carried out their first assault before the age of 20.


  1. Worst part is – if the women complain to the police about their treatment – they’re likely to be raped by the police! Africa is, unfortunately, a country where rape is seen as a weapon…..

  2. Rachel Jewkes’s research actually only showed a high incidence of rape in two of South Africa’s most violent provinces (out of nine provinces), populated largely (90%+ by Nguni people. In these two provinces (and a third one), the murder rate is between two and four times that of the remaining six provinces. If the number of rapes correlates with the numnber of murders, these two provinces are not typical of the whole country.

    From a statistical point of view, the sample represented only Zulu and Xhosa males — other black and non-black groups — which make up the largest part of the population — were represented by minute samples that fell below the level of statistical significance. The warlike Nguni (Zulus and Xhosas) differ culturally from the generally pacific Sotho/Tswana people and all minority groups. (An exception is the Eurasian population — mixed White and Khoisan — who also suffer froma high level of social dysfunction.) Jewkes’s sample contained too few non-Nguni black men, and Indian and White men to be of any significance for these groups — the margin of error was almost as large as the alleged rape rate.

    In some respects the research follows in the footsteps of Mary Koss’s resaerch on American female college students in the eighties, in which Ms Koss proved that 27% of them had been raped (within a fraction of a percentage point of Jewkes’s findings). However, when the respondents were debriefed, three quarters of them denied that they had been raped — reducing Koss’s figure from one in four to one in sixteen. But Koss’s methodology, which “proves” rape by the subjective and ideologically biased interpretation of a range of questions, some of which are very indirect, is highly controversial. (Predictably, those who question Koss’s methodology are routinely rejectred as “conservative” — as if that proves anything.)

    Jewkes rushed into print with her conclusions without publishing full details of the research methodology, which is a big no-no for serious scientists. One gets the impression taht she is not too keen to reveal too much. Some important details, which were released at a Nairobi conference of feminists, were quietly left out of the press release that caused all the fuss. Only a diligent search of the Web uncovered this bit of evidence. Whty was it kept hidden?

    But whether Jewkes proved anything or nothing is irrelevant for Americans — Ms Koss and her followers have proved exactly the same thing about American men (the difference between Jewkes’s figure and Koss’s original figure is in the regioin of 0,02%.) So if both ladies are to be believed, the USA is no safer than South Africa.

    A particularly strange thing is that a significant number of Zulu and Xhosa men are monolingual and speak and understand no English. Moreoever, both Zulu and Xhosa have several dialects that differ quite a lot and can lead to misunderstanding. The research team consisted of one British immigrant (Jewkes), an American, a South African white English-speaker (who may know Zulu) and a black South African, who is probably Zulu-speaking. It is not clear how Jewkes (British), the final interpreter of the data, penetrated the socio-linguistic barrier.

    Incidentally, Dr Jewkes qualified in London in tropical medicine, and it is unclear whether she has the necessary backgrounbd to undertake this kind of research.

    One should perhaps not take her conclusions too seriously until full details of the research is published and exposed to peer review and criticism.

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