A new report claims that 1 in 4 South African men admit to having raped a woman and that almost 3% of men have raped another man or boy.

The study was carried out by the Medical Research Council in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Interviews were conducted with 1,738 men across all racial groupings, and from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds in both rural and urban areas.

According to the study, 27.6% of the men interviewed admitted to having raped a woman or girl during their lifetime, with 4.6% of the men having done so in the past year.

Many (46.3%) had raped more than one woman, and only 4.6% of the men had not raped a woman who was not a partner (i.e. an acquaintance or stranger).

Rape of men and boys was also reported, with 2.9% admitting that they had done this.

“The very high prevalence shows that generally rape is far too common, and its origins too deeply embedded in ideas about South African manhood,” said the report.

The authors claim that “parental absence was significantly associated with raping, as was the quality of affective relationships with parents”. They also said that “rape was associated with significantly greater degrees of exposure to trauma in childhood”.

The importance of “changing social norms around masculinity and sexual entitlement,” was highlighted as a vital means of changing the status quo.

“A much broader approach to rape prevention is required. This must entail intervening on the key drivers of the problem which include ideas of masculinity, predicted on marked gender hierarchy and sexual entitlement of men. Efforts to change these require interventions on structural dimensions of men’s lives, notably education and opportunities for employment and advancement.”

Speaking to the IRIN website, Mogomotsi Mfalapitsa, spokesman for EngenderHealth, an international NGO promoting sexual and reproductive health in poor communities, blamed the “harmful masculinity” messages that boys were bombarded with; from the toy gun to the belief that men should have “multiple concurrent sexual partners”, and that it was a man’s “right to have sex”.

“All males are pulled through the mud [by the incidence of rape in South Africa],” Mfalapitsa said. “And it means they cannot even play with their nieces without arousing suspicion.”

Denise Robinson, the Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities, issued a statement in reaction to the report, accusing the ruling party of doing little to stem the tide of sexual violence against women.

“ANC leaders in positions of authority must break with the denial of previous leaders and now adopt the correct attitudes and positions towards the sexual abuse of women and children. They must take the lead in the fight towards a morally just society where women and children do not live in fear of being raped,” she said.

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