Sexual Violence in South Africa: Negotiating Constitutional Rights and Cultural Discourses of Gender Open Access

Reyes, Astrid Berenice (2013)

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This thesis explores sexual violence in South Africa as a product of not only apartheid's violent history, but also of cultural discourses surrounding gender and masculinity. The pervasiveness of rape in South Africa has shocked the world, yet the government has not sufficiently addressed the systematic causes of the problem, which include economic vulnerability (particularly in black and coloured populations), persistent racial tensions and inequities, and exaggerated masculinities that are attached to an illusory "African" patriarchy. South Africa's struggle with institutionalized racial oppression and subsequent success in establishing a liberal, democratic state led to the construction of a constitution that is committed to protecting the human rights of all its citizens. Despite the progressiveness of South Africa's laws, some government officials and the majority of people "on the ground" remain unattached to the ideals of the constitution, and tensions between the liberalness of the document and traditional beliefs have become increasingly prevalent in public discourse. As a result, sexual violence and women's rights in South Africa have become sites of debate for the applicability of Western human rights in a country that is pushing to reinstate traditional hegemonic masculinities.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

I.History of South Africa and Sexual Violence...1

a. Constructions of masculinity

i. Legacies of sexual violence during colonialism and apartheid

ii. Post-apartheid masculinity

b. Political and racial tensions around sexual violence

c. History of the ANC

d. Discrepancy between constitution and cultural norms

II. South African Constitution and Women's Rights Legislation...21

a. Construction of the constitution

b. ANC leaders in exile and Western influences

c. ANC Women's League role in women's rights

d. Culture vs. Constitution: Debates around the Traditional Courts Bill

III. The Zuma Rape Trial...36

a. Narrative of the rape trial

i. The girl who cried 'rape' and victim-blaming: Cross-examination, psychoanalysis, and sexual history of the complainant

ii. Zuma's appeal to Zulu masculinity

b. Aftermath of trial

i. Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act of 2007

ii. Reaction of NGOs and long-term consequences

IV. Corrective Rape of Lesbians...57

a. Section 9(3) of the constitution, LGBT rights, and political attitudes

b. Homosexuality as "unAfrican": History of homosexuality in South Africa

c. Case of Eudy Simelane: Black lesbians and masculinity

d. Understandings of homosexuality: Stabane and LGBT gender identity

e. Cases and statistics of corrective rape

V. Conclusion...76

VI. Works Cited...83

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