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Prisoners vulnerable after rape ruling

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Prisoners vulnerable after rape ruling

by Unity Klazen
16 May 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Friends Against Abuse has lambasted a ruling by the Constitutional Court that the rape of a man is not classified as rape, but as indecent assault.

The ruling came to light on Thursday, 10 May, when Justice Bess Nkabinde found that non-consensual, anal penetration of a woman and child may be classified as rape, but not in the case of a man.

Formerly based at Pollsmoor Prison, Friends Against Abuse aims to combat abuse and male rape in prisons.

... prisons are a breeding ground for men to be raped.

Founder member Eddie Johnson, also a former Pollsmoor employee, says the organisation rejects the ruling by the court as prisons are a breeding ground for men to be raped.

"In terms of the law, the Constitutional Court could have gone further and by instructing the government to reconsider or reconstruct the laws.

"The ruling leaves our communities vulnerable. Men land in prison and get raped.

"When they are released, they want to re-claim their manhood and a large number of rapes occur in our communities," says Johnson.

Johnson says that in the time that Friends Against Abuse worked in Pollsmoor Prison, more than 200 men reported that they had been raped in less than a year. To date, Pollsmoor has an estimated 6 000 inmates.

... more than 200 men reported that they had been raped in less than a year.

Nazma Hendricks, counselling coordinator at Rape Crisis, says the organisation welcomes the broadening of the definition of rape, but not the court's findings on male rape.

"This now marginalises the experiences of a male rape survivor. Every rape victim goes through a phase of what we classify as rape trauma syndrome, and once you go through these symptoms, it is classified as rape. What is the the court's diagnosis on rape trauma syndrome? Why are males being treated differently to females when they have lived through the same trauma?" asks Hendricks.

The National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) is also outraged at the ruling. NICRO's deputy executive director, Celia Dawson, says the ruling by the court is viewed with dismay by NICRO.

She says that given the fact that South Africa has legitimised same sex civil unions, excluding male sexual violations from the definition of rape does not make sense at all.

... adding to the perception that the incidence of male rape is insignificant

Dawson also says that male rape in prison is now being made invisible. "It is particularly disappointing against the background of male-on-male sexual violations within prisons.

"The incidence of male-on-male rape in society generally, and prisons in particular, is hidden within the broad definition of indecent assault, thus making male rape invisible and adding to the perception that the incidence of male rape is insignificant. It is disappointing that the Constitutional Court lost an opportunity to remedy this situation," says Dawson.

Repeated attempts to contact the national spokesperson for the Department of Correctional Services for comment proved futile.

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