Female activists and advocates are voicing serious doubts about South Africa's latest crime statistics, which show a decrease in reported sexual crimes, insisting that many women in the country still live in fear of being raped.
"I don't think the rape statistics given by the police are accurate because most rape victims fear to report rape cases to police for fear of stigmatization," Mercy Machisa, a research officer with advocacy group Gender Links, told the Anadolu Agency in a telephone interview.
Machisa says her organization is advocating for household surveys to determine the actual number of rape victims in South Africa, which has one of the highest incidence of rape in the world with 144 reports of rape every day.
Only about half of these cases, however, ever make it to court.
According to the statistics published on website of the South African Police Services (SAPS) sexual crimes had decreased by 1.9 percent.
In March 2011 there were 66,196 cases of rape reported with only 4,500 convictions.
In March 2012, the number of reported case went down to 64,514.
No figures for rape cases in 2013 have yet been released by SFPS.
"There are many women out there who don't report rape cases simply because they don't know how the justice system works," Lou Haysom, managing editor of Agenda newspaper, told the AA in a telephone interview.
Haysom said that her publication covers numerous cases of gender-based violence, asserting that statistics provided by the police were probably much lower than those seen on the ground.
"We need to encourage more women to be open and report rape cases," she said. "This is when we will know the accurate statistics."
In April 2012, Interpol named South Africa "the rape capital of the world", where less than 1 percent of rape cases were reported to police.
It went on to assert that South African women were more likely to be raped than educated.
Machisa, a women’s advocate, blames the high rate of rape in South Africa on a culture of hyper-masculinity where some men believe women are inferior compared to men.
Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, leader of South Africa’s newly formed Agang political party, shares the same conviction.
"Men needed to understand their role as protectors of the family, but women were entitled to freedom and equality, as provided for in the constitution," he added.
"We need to find a balance between democracy and traditional values," she said, adding that customary practices contributed to women being objectified.
South Africa celebrates August as the month of women in tribute to the thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 9 August 1956 to protest the extension of Pass Laws to black women.
Many NGOs are using the month to raise awareness against abuse of women and children.
"We are using this month to remind the people of South Africa and the region that the struggle for women's freedom, justice and equality continues all over the world," said Machisa.
When asked if political will would help reduce the high rate of rape cases in the country, she said: "Fighting rape calls for more than political will from the government, but instead requires the efforts of an entire society where people need to change their attitudes towards women."
Last week, President Jacob Zuma reassured the nation that his government was fully committed to the war against rape.
"Violence and the abuse of women and girls must come to an end in this country," he said on Friday while delivering a speech during the national women’s day celebrations held at the Thulamahashe stadium, in Bushbuckridge Limpopo province.
Zuma said the government was finalizing work on the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which will enforce gender equity compliance within both government and the private sector.
Haysom, the managing editor, suggested that government should train police officers on how to deal with rape as a crime since many of them do not have a clue on how to deal with rape victims while taking their statements.
She believes the government should do more in terms of creating public awareness about gender-based violence if the rape scourge was to be reduced in the country.
Lt. General Godfrey Libeya of the South African Police Services (SAPS) told the AA police encourages women to report rape cases.
When the Anadolu Agency visited the SAPS website, there was a lot of useful information educating South Africans on how to report rape.
But it seems that due to the trauma that women going through after being raped many tend to give up and not report the crime.
In a bid to help victims report rape crimes, a Cape Town based NGO has partnered with a local cell phone chat platform Mxit and developed a mobile application which will enable women to report rape cases online.
Kathleen Dey, director of Rape Crisis, says the mobile application will guide rape survivors on how to report a rape case, take them through court process and finally offer them counseling.
"Rape Crisis is committed to offering survivors information that is clear, accurate and accessible," Dey said in a statement, adding that Mxit currently has about 7 million active users in South Africa.
"The value of the Mxit mobile social network is that it is an inexpensive, easily accessible tool with enormous reach as it can work on nearly any phone."
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