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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 16:13 GMT
Are we turning a blind eye to rape?
Rape victim in DR Congo
As Liberia's new president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf breaks a taboo by talking openly about rape, we're asking: what are leaders in your country doing to fight it?

Rape is a problem across the world. In Africa, it's common particularly in post-conflict countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia.

South Africa reports one of the highest incidences of rape, with a woman raped every 20 seconds.

Why do men rape? Has rape become acceptable? What can and should be done to tackle it? Is President Johnson-Sirleaf's promise to tackle rape using tough new laws the best solution? Tell us what initiatives are in place in your community.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

We don't just turn a blind eye to rape - we use it. Rape as a topic sells our papers, is a beloved theme in our movies and magazines and can be seen, on almost any given day, as a juicy headline. True, the slant is a negative one and we make our sounds of disgust and shake our heads. But the topic of rape is such a favoured one in the media that we have stopped wondering why it is not only so unbelievably common but have come to view it as one of those rather unfortunate facts of life. Sensational. Sickening.
Martha Hinton, Toronto, Canada

She stopped coming to school mainly because she felt ashamed even though it was not her fault
Josephine Garric, Seattle, USA
Unfortunately we turn a blind eye to rape every day. Women are always the victims of rape. I remember when growing up in Africa one of my friends was raped by a couple of men. She was about 14-years-old and the men were in their late 20s. She openly told her parents and the police about the ordeal and that she had an idea who the men were. The cops did not follow up on the issue and the whole community seemed to place the blame on my friend. She stopped coming to school mainly because she felt ashamed even though it was not her fault.
Josephine Garric, Seattle, USA

Rape should never be acceptable! It's happening everywhere in our world and being ignored because most leaders are men. The capital punishment should be castration.
Bianca Chalwe, Bradford, UK

Women need to learn to report when they feel violated. Rapists are cowards; they impose their will on the weak. Usually these are individuals that either have been abused or have come from an abusive family.
Ernest Cole, Philadelphia, PA
We need social consciousness, enforcing as a society the mindset that rape IS a crime, regardless of excuses
Liliana, Sofia, Bulgaria

I believe that in order for rape victims to 'learn to report' the crime and feel secure in reporting, any country and society needs more than just laws. We need social consciousness, enforcing as a society the mindset that rape IS a crime, regardless of excuses, and that we as a society will stand on the side of the one being violated! When the stigma falls on the rapist, not on the raped, an additional punishment is added to any court sentence - the punishment of marginalizing the one who commits the crime, not the one who was hurt by it.
Liliana, Sofia, Bulgaria

In my community a rape victim would be forced to marry her enemy, the rapist, in case of pregnancy. On the other hand a male relative would give in to marriage to save the family's image and all goes silent. There is no public or legal way of tackling the issue.
Halima Abdi, Hargeisa, Somaliland

Rape in South Africa is big news as our deputy president has been accused of rape. Rape is absolutely about power and in most cases it's the power of man over woman. Africa has men that still consider themselves tribesmen and warriors and as a result "to the victor belong the spoils". As a South African male I lament the stereotype that we are all being subjected to, that of potential rapist.
Simon, South Africa

Police need to be trained to take rape seriously so they don't just say "Get a lawyer, it's a civil matter".
Jeff Cody, USA

As a born native of Liberia and a brother to eight sisters, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's decision to fight rape was long over due. We want the president to know that not only Liberians are standing by her side, but the entire world. She is setting a precedent that the world will follow. We love you "Ma-Ellen".
Bill Savice Jr, Houston, Texas

Rape is a crime and not a shame
Ope Ogundokun, Lagos, Nigeria
I am so glad this issue is being raised. Rape is such a heinous crime but many societies shut their eyes to it because it is considered a shame. Rape is a crime and not a shame and more needs to be done about addressing it. It is totally unacceptable; nothing can justify it! It's not just about punishment for the offenders, but there must be psycho-social support structures put in place to assist the victims. We lack these in many African countries. Most especially, rape must be concertedly addressed in post-conflict situations. My experience on field trips to Rwanda and Kosovo revealed that this crime is almost always swept under the carpet. Kudos to Sirleaf!
Ope Ogundokun, Lagos, Nigeria

Tough new laws by themselves will not act as a deterrent for those who commit rape because most of them are psychologically impaired. Victims and rapists must receive specialized medical assistance.
Placide Matsiaba, Gabon

Rape is a very serious crime against women. It reduces their ego and honour to zero. I think raping should be made a capital offence and should carry the death sentence. World leaders should put more emphasis on rape cases which has become so rampant.
Jonathan Leigh, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Many people believe that rape is not really about sex, but power. By raping a woman, a man is taking her power of choice. And for a lot of women, in a world where we don't have a lot of power, except over our own bodies, this can be devastating when this last little bit of choice and power is all we have left.
Tamar Bains, Seoul, Korea

Many victims would rather keep mute and suffer the abuse in silence than to go through all the further stress that goes with a report
Olaoluwa Nelson, Lagos, Nigeria
In a society like ours, the victim would rather save her face and family's reputation than reporting to the appropriate authorities thus making it a public discourse. Where a brave heart does report, our ignorant and inexperienced law enforcement agencies also compound the problem by handling the matter with levity, laughing at the complainant and or asking questions that might insinuate that the victim helped to aid the act committed against her. Thus many victims would rather keep mute and suffer the abuse in silence than to go through all the further stress that goes with a report.
Olaoluwa Nelson, Lagos, Nigeria

In the African culture and tradition it is a taboo to rape a woman. However some people here in Zambia believe that once you rape a virgin you can become rich all of a sudden. Previously rape cases were not punished adequately but when the scourge increased to alarming levels the Zambian government put a law through to severely punish offenders.
Chibwinja Francis, Kitwe, Zambia

It does not matter what a woman chooses to wear; that does not scream I want to be raped.
Adaeze, Philadelphia, USA
For too long the culture in most, if not all of Africa, has kept this topic hush hush. When a young girl or any woman for that matter is raped the first reaction is what did she do to bring this along? Julius from Cameroon already confirmed that by commenting on attire. It does not matter what a woman chooses to wear; that does not scream I want to be raped. What nonsense. Up President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for making this move. Yes, our leaders need to start cracking down on rapists in our communities and lock them up for many years. This will deter future attacks and ultimately protect our African women who have suffered at the hands of our own brothers for too many years.
Adaeze, Philadelphia, USA

Rape is part of how a society regards its women. Are they valued in the work place? Are they considered a leader in the family? Rape is a symptom of these issues. But we need to set a precedent that rape will never be tolerated as a first and much needed step to fixing the greater problems.
Carla Sterling, Brooklyn, USA

Rape is rape, no matter what. Anyone who rapes should be reported to the authorities, but interestingly our society frowns on it and doesn't take rape cases seriously. But thank God things are changing in Ghana to a larger extent with the establishment of Women and Juvenile Unit in the police service and the International Federation of Women Lawyers. They have been very helpful in dealing with cases of rape.
Pearl Cobbinah, Ghana

I grew up in a society where I have never heard of somebody being raped until I travelled to South Africa where rape is the talk of the day. You know, there is a concept in South Africa that if you have HIV and have sex with a virgin then you will be free of the disease. This caused an increase in rape. Rape causes a trauma that the victim will never forget in her lifetime. I would encourage governments to impose heavy sentences to culprits of rape. However, some rape cases are setups to tarnish people's reputations of top ranking officials and stars. Such situations should be given a second thought.
Aaron Anye, Cameroon/South Africa

Some young women have adopted very scanty and outlandish outfits that expose parts of their body. Their skirts are very short and their stomachs exposed. Some men see these outfits as provocative attires and an open invitation.
Julius Atia, Yaounde, Cameroon

The cause of rape is ignorance. It is an abomination and unacceptable. In order to curtail the incidence of rape, tougher penalties for offenders and awareness programme would help a lot. Victims should be encouraged to inform authorities if they are raped. Rape is not an acceptable norm in a civilized society. It is a stigma. In Boston, offenders are made to register with the police as a sex offender and their information posted on the web. Castrating repeat offenders is another option too.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

The traditional systems of dowry have been misinterpreted to mean men can do what they like with women - including rape them. Taboo attached to sexual matters also prevents dialogue or action to deal with this problem. Tough laws will only work if there is a change in how rape is viewed at the grassroots.
CM, UK/Kenya

I do not know why men rape. Are there times when men lose all their senses?
Prossy Nannyombi, Entebbe, Uganda


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