July 19, 2011 / Law & Justice, Safety, Women's History

How is Rape a Cure for Female Behavior?


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.

Image from CARA-Seattle.org

During the Victorian Era, medical institutions all over the world established that women were inherently fragile and emotional creatures and that it had nothing to do with the fact that they were drowning in the suffocating waters of patriarchy that condemned them to the domestic spheres of their existence.

Depression over not having a voice or the power necessary to govern their lives, their homes, or their bodies was defined by the medical industry as symptomatic of their “hysteria,” or their womb. Thus, only women suffered from this illness, their symptoms including moodiness, fainting spells, nervousness, and causing trouble by deviating from the accepted feminine norm. The “cure” for this female-dominated illness consisted of complete rest accomplished by sensory deprivation. Some physicians also believed that by stimulating the female’s genitalia until she had an orgasm would “cure” her of her condition.

That was in the 19th century. We would like to believe that we have evolved and gained enough knowledge that would grant such a thing revolting and ignorant on the part of men and the institutions they headed. Sadly, patriarchy continues to reign today, and women are still being “corrected” for acting against male expectations. And this is a global conceit on the part of patriarchal cultures that attempt to enforce their beliefs upon the lives and bodies of women via violence.

Although South Africa has allowed gay marriages since 2006, more progressive than the U.S. laws in this matter, South African male gangs use corrective rape to “cure” lesbians of their sexual preferences. Wow! According to ActionAid500,000 rapes occur annually in South Africa, but the police are reluctant to investigate homophobic crimes against women.  Since homosexuality is taboo, many of them go unreported, are not investigated, and fade into the next one without any justice.

When Eudy Simelane, a professional soccer player, equal rights activist, and the first woman to come out as a lesbian in her region was raped, tortured, and murdered in 2008 in Kwa-Thema, her place of birth, the men accused of this hate crime said that she wouldn’t have died had she not fought like a man. Hers is one of many cases, the hate crimes against women in South Africa becoming notoriously high. Men are taking it among themselves to teach women a lesson about choosing women over them and attempting to “correct” their behavior, or cure them into becoming straight.

According to Mark Gevisser of The Guardian,

One of the wonders of contemporary South Africa is the flowering of an urban black working-class lesbian subculture. Raised with a post-apartheid consciousness of human rights, many young black women have rejected the traditional roles expected of them: they have claimed the right to live independent of men and taken their sexuality on to the streets with a particular subcultural look.

Because no attention is being given to this issue, the rape epidemic continues to be fostered in the area. As a result, many groups have established petitions to end corrective rapes in South Africa. In response to these online petitions, Sokari from blacklooks.org states why the organization dedicated to black women’s voices refuses to sign these petitions. Aside from the fact that by using the pictures of survivors to propagate these petitions, which they deem sensationalist, they also believe that rape is rape and that corrective rape should not be seen as violence against homosexuals only, but violence against women:

Rape is a means of maintaining control and power over women and their bodies and of policing gender and sexuality norms. These norms prescribe what a woman is, how a woman should behave and stipulate that women’s bodies belong to men.

It is for this reason that gay women are being targeted with such malice. Corrective rape is nothing new; it’s an old patriarchal tactic used to control women, their bodies, and their voices. And it must end.

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