Gender-based violence in South Africa is an age-old problem. The paternalistic mindset that oppresses women has been carried forward by a combination of outdated traditions, religion, and cultural practices.
Women suffer a great deal in the hands of men who are bound by misogynistic beliefs and this, in turn, has led to a higher HIV AIDS prevalence. Rape culture and misguided beliefs keep women enslaved to a society that is making the HIV pandemic spiral out of control.
Yet another factor that has led to, and increased the spread of HIV is the deep-rooted rape culture in SA. The police approximate that a woman is raped every thirty-six seconds in South Africa. About thirteen percent of the South African population comprises HIV positive individuals. That translates to about 7.5 million individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
A survey in western cape revealed that at least 15% of the male population had forced a woman that wasn’t their partner into sex. The same study revealed that in Gauteng, the number was 37.4%. To add insult to injury, more than half of the individuals questioned in the survey that admitted to having raped had done it more than one time.
The large majority of rapists are often HIV positive individuals looking to spread the disease on purpose. One such man gave a chilling confession in a BBC documentary simply dubbed ‘My Neighbor the Rapist’.
In his confession, he described how he cannot go for three days without ‘taking a woman’ and how this makes him feel powerful. He was clearly turned on by the idea of striking fear in the hearts of women and took great pride in the fact that he was not going to ‘die alone’ with HIV/AIDS.
Young girls (from as young as months old) have also become the target of HIV positive men who believe that sex with a young virgin child will cure them of HIV/AIDS. This misinformation has led to an increase in ‘virgin cleansing’, where HIV positive men target and sexually abuse young girls within the family.
One traditional ‘doctor’ shamelessly spoke in Infront of the cameras in the same BBC documentary describing how he advises men to look for young girls between the ages of 12 and 14 years old within the family. He advises that these men should have sex with these young girls at least five to eight times to completely rid themselves of HIV.
A lot of men in South Africa especially in the poorer and more rural communities still practice wife battering. Whether they do it with the intention of correcting or out of sheer disdain and disrespect, wife battering renders many women voiceless.
It is difficult for a woman in this type of situation to speak up about safety matters such as the use of protection or getting tested. On the rare occasion that they do, it leads to further oppression as many men get offended by this conversation.
This means that these women (even if they find that they are already infected) might be unable to get proper health care. This oppression of women means that they cannot do anything without their spouses’ approval. Healthcare for women in such situations is more often than not completely out of the question.
These are the undercurrents of a society in affliction. The HIV pandemic has led many people to grasp at straws and opt for all options out there. The result is what is happening to women in South Africa. Gender-based violence is leading to and increasing the percentage of HIV/AIDS infection across the nation.