Raped because she’s lesbian
Anna (not her real name) says she was sexually assaulted while asleep at a friend’s house in Goreangab in the early hours of Monday, 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. The common intended consequence of the rape, as seen by the perpetrator, is to turn the person heterosexual. The term was coined in South Africa, where corrective rape has happened with disturbing regularity in townships. Relating her story to Namibian Sun, Anna says that at about 04:00 on Monday she was asleep at a friend’s house in Goreangab. She was in bed with her girlfriend. When she woke up she realised that she was being raped. “It was dark when I woke up. I jumped up and switched on the light. He told me that I claim to be a lesbian, but I enjoyed it. I punched him and he ran off. My friend where I stayed knows the guy,” Anna said while shivering. She said she made the mistake of showering, because she initially didn’t want to press charges, because of her past experience. She had since decided to tell the police about what had happened. Anna, who is a gay and lesbian activist, said she first approached OutRight Namibia, who accompanied her to hospital. She said she arrived at the Katutura State Hospital on Tuesday, shortly after 14:00, and was sent to the Women and Child Protection Unit at the facility. When Namibian Sun arrived shortly before 19:00, she was still waiting to be assisted. She said the receptionist had advised her to come the next day, as this would still be within the period to receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is the use of antiretroviral drugs after a single high-risk event to stop HIV from spreading through the body. “When I got here (at the hospital), I whispered to the receptionist that I needed help. She loud and directly told the workers that I had been raped and that I needed counselling. That in itself I feel is an invasion of my privacy. This was corrective rape, it wasn’t just any rape.” “The receptionist tried to get me to come tomorrow, she kept saying there are 72 hours to get the medication. She tried to get us to come the next day,” Anna said. She said during the day before the rape she and her friends had been drinking and the rapist had on the odd occasion tried to join their company at a bar they were at previously. Anna said this was not the first time she had been raped because she is a lesbian. “On a previous occasion I was raped in the North by a man who left a bottle of whiskey and a floppy hat. I took it to the police station, but the police officers were more concerned about why I was with a girl that I referred to as my girlfriend. “They passed the bottle around to one another while remarking that its cheap alcohol, and laughing about it.” Public Outreach Manager at the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), Rachel Coomer, said corrective rape is not common in Namibia, but very prevalent in South Africa. “It’s not something we particularly know of in Namibia, so the prevalence of it is very low here,” she said. Speaking about the procedure when receiving PEP, Coomer said rape is a very traumatic experience and at times there were staff shortages, so rape victims have to wait. She, however, believes that the waiting period has to be kept down to a minimum. “PEP needs to be dispensed by a pharmacist, but perhaps there is a need to look into the possibility of having rape victims receive their medication without standing in a line for too long and that kind of protocol,” she said. Women Solidarity Namibia Director Rosa Namises said: “Corrective rape is happening in Namibia, it is just under-reported. It is especially prevalent at family level. It is happening in our community and we need to start talking about it.” She said she has never spoken out against the Women and Child Protection Units, especially the one in Windhoek. However, she added it was disappointing that the unit had not created a private and sensitive space for victims. “It’s sad to know that there is no willingness from Nampol to make it friendly. It’s disappointing that it remains at that level after many evaluations and recommendations,” Namises added.
Gordon Joseph Namibian Sun