The scourge of rape

The scourge of rape

Staff Reporter

MASERU

 

LERATO expected support when she was gang-raped. The village, she thought, would be outraged at such a heinous crime.

Instead her aunt said she got what she deserved and the village ignored her plight.

Four men had taken turns to rape her for nearly two hours.

They also whipped her and threw her into a river.

Lerato (not her real name), says her aunt told her and the people who had gathered at a neighbour’s house to hear her rape ordeal that she got what she wanted.

“My aunt said she wished they had killed me as she thought I asked for it,” Lerato says.

Lerato says she was walking home with a friend when they noticed that some men were following them. As they approached the gate to her home the men started pelting them with stones.

The friend escaped while Lerato says she jumped over a neighbour’s fence, screaming for help. The men caught her and stuffed a cloth into her mouth before dragging her to a nearby gully.

“I also did not see the faces of these men as they had their faces covered,” she recalls.

“They were also beating me with sticks and fists, and kicking me indiscriminately.”

Lerato says they “pulled me to a rocky area where they ordered me to take off my clothes. When I refused one of them got hold of me while another one started tearing my clothing with a knife, and in the process I suffered a cut on my stomach”.

“Then one man forced me to the ground, took off my pants and raped me. They then carried on raping me one after another. They were also surprised, but brutally so, to realise that I was still a virgin”.

“They had no condoms on. After what seemed like eternity they cut my cheek with a knife, saying they were giving me a permanent mark.”

She says they then took her to a stream and threw her clothes into the water and ordered her to retrieve them.

When she refused they pushed her into the stream. They pulled her out when they realised she could not swim.

“I was so tired and my whole body was sore and stiff. I could hardly do anything”.

Later they ordered her on her feet and followed her towards her home while hurling insults.

“We were joined on the way by two other men who also raped me”.

“They were forcing me to walk and I could not. The best I could do was crawl. They then pushed me hard and I fell into a ditch”.

Lerato says she then crawled to a friend’s home and in the morning the friend accompanied her to her home where she found people gathered at a neighbour’s house.

That was where the aunt said she had asked for it.

Lerato, an orphaned teenager in Mohale’s Hoek, says she is the youngest in a family of five children, with her sisters working in Johannesburg and brother working for a security company in Maseru.

Another sister was working in Mohale’s Hoek.

“I called my sister in Mohale’s Hoek and related the whole story to her. She, in turn, called my brother in Maseru and we all went together to the police who recorded my statement and issued me with a medical form to see a doctor. I was tested for pregnancy and HIV and AIDS, and given medication that would deal with the virus should it occur”.

Lerato’s horror story is part of the “I” Stories series produced by the Gender Links News Service to encourage victims of gender-based violence to speak out.

Lerato’s case is not an isolated one in Lesotho. Last month the magistrate’s court in Maseru sentenced two men of Ha-Maama to nine years imprisonment each without an option of a fine for gang-raping a teenage girl from their village.

The 15-year-old girl was on her way to home when she met the men and another teenager. They asked why she was walking alone at night. They also accused her of being disrespectful to her parents.

She told the court that they dragged her to the bushes, whipped her when she tried to call for help and then took turns to rape her there.

They ran away when her cousin, who had heard her calls, came to her rescue and raised alarm.

He had known them.

He took his cousin to the village chief who in turn called her parents before taking the matter to the police.

The court heard that the three went to the girl’s home accompanied by their parents where they admitted to have raped her and asked for forgiveness.

The court ordered that the teenager’s case should be taken to the Children’s Court.

About two weeks before the imprisonment of these two men, two other men appeared before the Maseru magistrate’s court facing murder and rape cases.

These three incidents of rape may seem as just isolated cases but according to recent studies they are part of an epidemic problem of rape in Lesotho.

Gate Stone Institute, a research organisation, last year reported that Sweden is number two in the world in rape cases “surpassed only by Lesotho in southern Africa”.

According to a United Nations study last year Lesotho has the highest rape rate in the world, with 61 percent of women reporting having experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.

The country had a rate of 88.6 rape cases per 100 000 inhabitants in 2011, according to a UN report.

Rape-CrimesThe Lesotho Nursing Task Analysis Report of 2013 showed that 25 percent of women aged between 18 and 35 years reported that they had been physically forced to have sex.

According to the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics report of 2013 there were 1 498 cases of rape out of the 13 052 serious crimes reported to the police.

 

The southern region that combines districts of Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing and Qacha’s Nek reported 14.4 percent of rape cases.

The northern districts of Berea, Leribe, Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong had 11.6 percent of rape cases while the central districts of Maseru and Thaba-Tseka had 10.1 percent.

Maseru urban had 18.9 percent and Maseru rural 15.2 percent.

Mokhotlong reported the lowest proportion (4.2 percent) of rape cases.

Another recent study of school age children in Lesotho echoes similarly disturbing statistics, with one in every five children aged 11–16 years reporting that they had been forced or coerced into having sex.

A 2008 study by UNODC, an international organisation, reveals that 61 percent of women reported having experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, of which 22 percent reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse.

In the 2009 DHS survey 15.7 percent of men said that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife if she refuses to have sex with him, while 16 percent said a husband is justified to use force to have sex.

In another study, researchers concluded that “given the high prevalence of HIV in Lesotho, programmes should address women’s right to control their sexuality”.

But that is easier said than done given the dominant role of men in Lesotho’s society. Rape, including in marriages, remains high despite progressive laws like the Married Persons Equality Act 2006. The law gives equal rights to women and men in marriage, but little has changed in reality.

“Unequal gender relations and belief in the sexual entitlement of men are entrenched in cultural and social norms, and the country has a very high incidence of rape. In the majority of cases victims of sexual violence are silenced,” according to a research by Kick4Life, an NGO focusing on HIV and Aids prevention among the youths.

The research also suggests that since many Basotho work and stay in South Africa, they are influenced by the prevalent sexual offences in that country.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a regional research organisation, says “the prevalence of rape and particularly multiple perpetrator rape is unusually high”.

“The proportion of adult men who have raped is between 28-37 percent, and 7-9 percent has engaged in multiple perpetrator rape,” the ISS says.

The ISS says as the majority of sexual assaults remain unreported in South Africa, because of fear of repercussions, rape statistics show a lower rate of molestations as many women choose not to press charges.

The government is working to stop sexual violence in all its forms, according to the Acting Director in the Ministry of Gender ’Mapuleng Secheche.

Secheche says the ministry has a department called Social Empowerment through which the communities countrywide taught about the ills of sexual violence including rape.

Secheche also says there are gender officials in the districts who are engaged in countrywide campaigns against gender-based violence.

“We hold public gatherings through which we encourage the communities to prevent gender-based violence in all its forms,” Secheche says.

“Also we work with NGOs with which we share the same objectives. Some of these NGOs are for women and girls and we often have closed sessions with them where we discuss how we can prevent gender-based violence and how we can report it when it has happened,” she says.

“There are also NGOs that focus on issues of men and our officials often have closed sessions with them.”

She says also there are selected days and internationally observed activities like 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence that starts in mid-November to early December, Human Rights Day on December 10 and other similarly celebrated days.

“That is when we strengthen our campaigns to an extent that we get on board buses to Thaba-Tseka, Mokhotlong and Qacha’s Nek and continue with our campaign in the buses,” she says.

The Gender Link’s country manager, ’Manteboheleng Mabetha, also says they are working with local councils to combat gender-based violence although they have not narrowed their approach to sexual assault.

Gender Link’s 2014 Gender-Based Violence Indicators Study shows that “more than a third (39 percent) of men who had been physically abused as children reported perpetrating (Intimate Partner Violence) whereas 26 percent of men who did not experience physical abuse committed IPV”.

The study also shows that 17 percent of survivors of childhood neglect perpetrated non-partner rape while 13 percent of non-survivors of childhood neglect admitted the same offence.

“Thirty-five percent of male survivors of childhood sexual abuse committed non-partner rape whereas 10 percent of non-survivors of childhood sexual abuse committed non-partner rape,” the study shows.

 

 

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