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Labeling SA as the world’s ‘rape capital’ flawed

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A South African high court  judge was placed on special leave this week following a complaint to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). This came after comments by Mabel Jansen emerged in which she said, amongst other things, that the "gang rapes of baby, daughter, and mother [were] a pleasurable pass time [sic]" for African people.

In support of Jansen, Afrikaans author and commentator Dan Roodt tweeted: “In this Stalinist-style witch-hunt againgst [sic] Judge #MabelJansen just remember S. Africa is the undisputed rape capital of the world”.

Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr made a similar comment when he tweeted that “all nations rape&murder, but in the rape capitol [sic] of the world disproportionate contributions should be checked”.

South Africa isn’t the first country to be labeled the world’s rape capital - it’s been applied to both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indian city Delhi.

GCIS staff distributed pamphlets and carried placards to mark a “Day of Action Against Rape” at the Sammy Marks Square in Pretoria in February 2013. Photo: GCIS GCIS staff distributed pamphlets and carried placards to mark a “Day of Action Against Rape” at the Sammy Marks Square in Pretoria in February 2013. Photo: GCIS

However, The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime specifically cautions against international comparisons of rape statistics because of “the differences that exist between the legal definitions of offences in countries, or the different methods of offence counting and recording”.

For example in South African law, any person who unlawfully and intentionally commits an act of sexual penetration with another person without consent is guilty of rape. However in other countries the law only recognises rape against women or doesn’t recognise spousal rape.

Different recording methods and varying reporting rates of rape further stymie comparisons. Until these problems are resolved, any claim about the “rape capital” of the world will be flawed. -12/05/2016


Additional reading

Why it is wrong to call S. Africa or any country the ‘rape capital of the world’ (2014)

Will one in three women in SA be raped? Blow the Whistle wrong again (2015)

FACTSHEET: South Africa’s 2014/15 assault and sexual crime statistics (2016)

UN stats don’t show a rape occurs every 26 seconds in SA, as Sky News reported (2016)

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