From South Africa’s first ever protest march against sexual violence on 3 February, 1990, in Soweto to the government’s 24th year of participating in the global 16 Days of Activism campaign, the roots of its grip on the country has confounded policymakers.
In AfriForum’s report into trends in sexual violence and sexual crimes in SA, these moments were revisited to highlight how battles against these phenomena have largely been lost.
The data was collected using media statements by the National Prosecuting Authority, court cases – which are freely available on the Southern African Legal Information Institute website – and media reports and information from other institutions.
The report was based on a qualitative study to determine the numbers of offenders and victims and the outcomes of the system, such as conviction rates and how much jail time offenders get.
Rape began to peak in the mid-70s, the report suggests, with the emergence of “jackrolling”, which involved gangs of young men abducting young women, often for up to a week, to gang rape.
Struggle activist Mary Mabaso at the time linked the rising school dropout and unemployment rates after political unrest in 1976 and how unrest in late 1976 caused increasing cases of sexual violence in schools in Soweto.
Two decades of democracy has since seen femicide related to sexual violence increase, making South Africa one of the rape capitals of the world.
According to the report, SA’s latest police statistics show 166 rape cases were opened per day and many rapists had multiple victims. The average serial rapist had seven victims.
The number of victims (rape and murder) per serial rapist ranged from two to 58 for rape and from one to 27 for murder.
More than 23%, totalling 131 serial rapists, amassed more than 10 victims while 39 (6.85%) of them raped 20 or more victims.
AfriForum head of research Barend Uys said the institution wanted the report to show that active citizenship was the missing link in the fight to root out the rape culture and police-related crime.
The most important message AfriForum wanted to convey was the pivotal role of community policing in dealing with sexual offences.
It was time for communities to be empowered to take responsibility for their own safety, he added, because 64% of rapes happen in and around the home.
“It’s also important to say to communities, let’s start to talk about the root causes of these crimes and the moral fibre of our communities.”