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By on September 21, 2009

Interface of rape and HIV in South Africa

In a recent policy brief looking at Rape and HIV in South Africa, the authors included this as their first recommendation: “Rape prevention must focus centrally on changing social norms around masculinity and sexual entitlement, and addressing the structural underpinnings of rape.”

What a great definition for primary prevention! Preventing sexual violence must go beyond changing individuals knowledge, attitudes and beliefs (though it does start there.) Prevention requires transforming a rape culture.  There are many examples from countries other than the United States on how to address these issues.

The citation and more from the Executive Summary can be found after the jump.

Rachel Jewkes, Yandisa Sikweyiya, Robert Morrell, Kristin Dunkle,
Understanding men’s health and use of violence: – interface of rape and HIV in South Africa,
MRC Policy Brief,
June 2009 Link to Article

From the Executive Summary:

South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape reported to the police in the world and the largest number of people living with HIV. The rate of rape perpetration is not known because only a small proportion of rapes are reported to the police. There is considerable concern about the links between these two problems. Obviously HIV can be transmitted in the course of rape and this compounds the human rights violation of the rape. Research has established that men who rape and are physically violent towards partners are more likely to engage in sexual risk-taking than other men, and this has raised a concern that they are more likely to be infected with HIV.

The findings highlight the very high prevalence of rape in South Africa and the high prevalence of HIV in the adult population. The prevalence of rape has similarities to that found in other studies in South Africa. The very high prevalence shows that generally rape is far too common, and its origins too deeply embedded in ideas about South African manhood, for the problem which can be predominantly addressed through strategies of apprehension and prosecution of perpetrators.

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. Our study suggests that the pathway which leads to these ideas and the practices of rape and other forms of violence towards women starts in childhood and strengthening families, and protecting children from exposure to adversity in childhood are critical for ensuring that men in the population develop psychologically as pro-social members of society.

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