International finance magazine The Economist has run a feature uncovering what it calls South Africa’s ‘disgrace’ – laying bare unsettling rape statistics in some regions in South Africa.
The publication cited an anonymous survey conducted in 2016 in Diepsloot – a densely population township north of Johannesburg – where 38% of men (two in five) admitted to having forced a woman into have sex with them.
Extending the questions to broader violence – having beaten or threatened to hurt a woman – the statistic jumps to 54%, almost three in five men.
Even more problematic findings came out of the study, one of which is a widely known problem in South Africa: a large number of rape cases go unreported, and when they are reported, little is done.
According to the study, of over 500 sexual assault cases reported to the Diepsloot police since 2013, only one case led to a conviction. According to The Economist, it is estimated that only one in every nine cases of rape is reported to the police.
Rape statistics in South Africa
Coverage of rape in South Africa has been controversial and notoriously misinformed for many years. This is because of the aforementioned low reporting of rape cases, and poor record keeping and reporting of rape statistics.
Simply put, beyond the official number of cases reported to the SAPS, we do not know the true extent of rape and sexual assault in South Africa.
An infamous – and debunked – statistic quoted by South African actress Charlize Theron, and widely cited in media across the world, was that a woman or child is raped every 26 seconds in South Africa.
This statistic would imply that over 1.2 million women and children are raped every year. The source of the claim was a 1998 estimate from a Cape Town Rape Crisis centre, based on the understanding that only one in 20 rapes are reported.
This figure has been repeatedly used by international media, and repeatedly shot down.
The most recent data from the South African Police Service shows that between April 2016 and December 2016, there were 30,069 reported cases of rape – down from 32,161 cases over the same period in 2015.
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