Last week the Namibian Sun reported that a woman was raped because of her sexuality. She was in bed with her girlfriend when a man decided to come in and rape her, because he was so provoked by the fact that she prefers women over men.
Now there are many parts of this situation that are deeply upsetting, but the problem I want to highlight here is the way that these types of crimes are described by mainstream media.
The Namibian Sun writes that the rape happened “…because the rapist wanted to “cure” her of lesbianism. So-called ‘corrective rape’ is a hate crime in which people are raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.” When googling the term “corrective rape” it is clear that many major English written newspapers describe the crime in a similar way.
Using the term “corrective rape” is highly problematic – partly because it indicates that the rape has a purpose (that it is something different from “ordinary rape”) and partly because it suggests that there is, in fact, something about the victim that can be “corrected”. Whilst many journalists put the term “corrective rape” and “cure” within quotation marks this does nothing to challenge the hetero norm that dominates our world society. Rather, it reproduces the heterosexual ideal and implies that the victim’s sexuality is the core explanation to why she was subjected to this crime.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for addressing homophobia and its horrible consequences. It’s just that I would like a discussion where the victim is not sensationalised because of her sexuality. We know that most rapes occur as an act of male domination. We live in a patriarchal, heteronormative world and I believe that the mainstream media has great power to challenge the way we think about these issues.
What is happening to LGBTI persons in terms of discrimination, violence, rape and murder is unacceptable and we need to write about it, discuss it and act against it, but using words like “corrective rape” and “cure” (even if they are within quotation marks) is playing in the hands of the homophobic rapists themselves.
A rape is a rape. There is no purpose that can justify it. And if someone decides that he is entitled to abuse another person’s body because of who she chooses to love – then I would like the discussion to be about his messed up mind rather than her sexuality. That just seems more relevant.