[notice].Male rape has, for a long time, been almost completely unacknowledged, rarely reported and often scorned. How, after all, can a man possibly be raped? In the second article in a 4-part series, DIANNE STEVEN focuses on male rape and the law.[/notice]
Male rape has been around for a long time but it took many years for the legal system in South Africa to catch up with this reality.
Legal recognition of rape and sexual assaults against men finally came about with the passing of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act in 2007.
Previously sexual attacks on men could only be classified as indecent assault. Only males could be charged with rape and females were the only victims recognised by law.
Before 2007 rape meant vaginal intercourse. The amended Act broadens the definition of rape to include forced anal or oral sex, irrespective of the gender of either the victim or the perpetrator. It also includes sexual penetration with an inanimate object or animal genitalia.
The South African constitution guarantees gender equality and the right of a person to freedom and security.
The Bill aims to provide survivors of rape and sexual assault with the maximum and least traumatising protection the law can provide.
Appropriately, the revised law also deals with rape victims’ risk of contracting HIV. Recent statistics indicate that about 5.4 million people out of a population of 48 million in South Africa are infected with the HI virus.
Victims of rape or sexual assault may obtain a court order for alleged offenders to undergo compulsory HIV testing and for the results to be revealed to them.
The Act also provides for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for rape victims to prevent HIV-infection. For this to be effective however, victims should be able to access it within 72 hours.
The law has caught up with the reality of male rape and HIV infection risks. But how is it being implemented?
Despite indications that male on male rape is widespread, I have not found any reports of males charged or convicted of raping males. This is no doubt linked to the fact that shame and fear (especially in prison rapes) hold males back from reporting that they have been raped.
I did find a report of a precedent-setting ruling in February 2012 in which a court found a woman guilty of raping a male. The 45-year-old Eastern Cape woman caregiver was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for raping a mentally and physically handicapped boy of 13.
Port Elizabeth National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Tsepo Ndwalaza said: “It is the first conviction of its kind. She is the first woman to be successfully convicted of rape in South Africa.”
An unusual male rape case is documented in a case report of SA Family Practice, a journal of SA family physicians. It details an incident in 2009 in which a 32-year-old Xhosa-speaking security guard from Transkei was abducted and forced to have sex with three women over a period of three days. An armed man ordered the victim to strip for the women. During his ordeal he was given an unknown potion to drink and an ointment was applied to his genitals.
On the morning of the fourth day, the victim was dropped off, and he reported the case to the police soon thereafter. He had not taken a bath or any medication prior to reporting the case. The reason for presenting to a medical officer was to open a case, and to receive help for the psychological trauma. On the day of the examination, the subject was apprehensive and mildly dehydrated. There were no injuries. His genitalia were clean, dry and normal, therefore, no specimen was collected for forensic evidence. He was offered psychological counseling and an HIV test, and post exposure prophylaxis (PEP). The police however failed to open a case. This case highlights the difficulties faced by male rape victims. Despite reporting his ordeal — something that is not easy to do in a culture in which being raped by a woman is not acceptable — he was apparently not taken seriously by law enforcers. The law has caught up with reality but it seems that SA culture has some catching up to do.