Corrective rape is a hate crime in which one or more people are raped because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The act is also called curative or homophobic rape.
The disgusting act is done with the intention to change an individual to a heterosexual or to enforce the gender stereotypes. The term was first coined in South Africa. This was after the cases of Eudy Simelane and Zoliswa Nkonyana became public outcries. The term became popular after the raising of awareness and encouragement from LGBTQ+ people, who help their counterparts come forward with their own stories of rape and punishment.
Corrective rape exists in India too. But much more significantly in South Africa.
The South African government held a survey in 2009 on sexual assault. The results were horrifying. One in four men admits to having sex with a woman who did not consent. Nearly half of these men admit to raping more than once.
The survey also estimates that in every 26 seconds, a woman in South Africa is raped.
Corrective rape is in use as a punishment and there is often verbal abuse before the victim is raped. The perpetrator may claim to be teaching the women a lesson on “how to be a real woman”. Women in South Africa have less control over their economics. This makes them economically vulnerable and they have significantly less control over their sexual activities. Poor women of colour are the highest likely to be victims. Since lesbians in South Africa have very little to almost no support, it only increases their chances of being targets.
The facts behind this become substantially worse when you take into account South Africa’s constitution. South Africa is one of the most progressive when it comes to their laws. They were one of the first countries to rid laws that cause discrimination. The law states that no person shall be discriminated based on his or her gender, race or sexual orientation. Their Equality Act of 2000 is very specific to this.
Since the law technically includes any crimes based on sexual orientation, one would presume that the country would be doing much better than their counterparts when it comes to having support groups and organisations. However, these crimes never make it to the court. Corrective rape reports are not separate from general rape reports. In December of 2009, there were around 31 records of murdered lesbians, but only one has a conviction.
And even worse, corrective rape is on the rise. In just four months of 2018, there were at least five women who were raped by a relative to ‘correct’ their sexual orientation.
While researching on the topic, I read through multiple stories of lesbian women of colour. But one struck me enough to tears. Pearl Mali.
Pearl Mali, as told by the New York Times, was an adolescent who identified herself as a lesbian. She was raped by an elderly man who was brought home by her mother. He had come from the Church one evening in 2005. The mother, who heard Pearl scream, proceeded to shout “Pearl, you are making noise. Shut up”
The week after, Pearl’s mother invited the man again, this time asking Pearl to cook for him. He proceeded to rape her. This continued for several months until Pearl’s mother asked the man to move in and be Pearl’s Husband.
Pearl was 12.
“He raped me almost every day from when I was 12 to 16 years old. My mother didn’t want me to be gay so she asked him to be my husband and hoped it would change me,” she tells New York Times.
Pearl fled her home but, in March 2009, learnt she was pregnant. She tried and failed, to abort the pregnancy. She proceeded to try and kill herself but failed. Then she gave birth. “I had to go back to my Mum’s house because the police said I was too young to take care of the baby,” she says.
But Pearl’s mother kicked her out of the house and took her baby from her. “I cannot touch the child, I cannot bathe him or feed him because I am ‘going to make him gay too.’ I cannot touch him or kiss him or anything,” she continues to the New York Times.
When Pearl went to court to fight for her parental rights, her mother turned up — along with the rapist. At a second hearing, neither the mother nor the rapist appeared, so the court could not proceed with the trial. “My son still lives with my mother and I cannot see him because I am still gay,” continues Pearl to New York Times.
Such stories are constantly being put under a rug. They don’t seem to hold much value in South Africa with lesbian fearing their lives.
The lesbians, however, aren’t the only ones who are targeted within the LGBTQ+ community. Though in comparatively smaller numbers, gay men, asexuals as well as trans people are constantly being probed, pushed and threatened. Rape has become customary for most of the openly LGBTQ+ individuals.
India, though a bit more progressive, has still had episodes of homophobic rape occur. Corrective rape in India tends to occur to protect the family name. They try to avoid any shaming that may occur from religious communities or stigmatization.
There is a high level of discomfort surrounding homosexuality. While Section 377 has been abolished there is still an exceptionally long way to go. There is also a high level of negativity towards the trans community of India.
According to statistics from the Crisis Intervention Team of LGBT Collective in Telangana, there have been 15 reported instances of corrective rape that have been reported in the last 5 years. In general, there has been a 92% increase in reported rapes in India from 1971 to 2012. However, it is estimated that 90% of sex crimes in the country go unreported.
Also read: What Is Gay/ Transgender Panic?
Source Credits: Wikipedia, New York Times