Press Release: When Government Officials Promote Prisoner Rape, Nobody is Safe
Media Contact: Sasha Gear
Los Angeles and Johannesburg, April 25, 2012 -- Just Detention International (JDI) was dismayed to learn that a high-level South African government official called for the rape in prison of a group of boys and men charged with gang-raping a 17-year-old girl. Responding to the March 31 assault, the official, Clayson Monyela, is quoted as saying that he hopes the perpetrators will “find like-minded monsters in jail to give them a taste of their own medicine.” Monyela serves as South Africa's head of public diplomacy.
“Clayson Monyela’s remarks are horrifying,” said Lovisa Stannow, JDI’s Executive Director. “It is irresponsible for anyone to claim that the proper response to one brutal crime is another brutal crime. When a government official makes that statement, it puts people’s lives at risk. Rape is never an acceptable form of punishment, no matter how deplorable the offense.”
The vicious rape of the girl, who is mentally disabled, caused outrage after a video of the assault, taken by one of the perpetrators, went viral. “Understandably, this terrible crime has provoked shock and anger among many South Africans,” said Sasha Gear, a Program Director at JDI’s Johannesburg office. “Unfortunately, we know such attacks are common – but they are not so different from the rape of people behind bars. Sexual violence, wherever it occurs, is fueled by hyper-masculine attitudes that connect manhood to the abuse of people who appear vulnerable. Calling for the perpetrators in this case to be raped is not a call for justice. Rather, it will lead only to more sexual violence – both inside and outside of prisons.”
Sexual violence plagues South Africa’s prisons. According to a government study, seven percent of South African inmates reported being subjected to unwanted sexual attention; nearly half of all inmates reported that sexual abuse in prison happens “sometimes,” “often,” or “very often.” To make matters worse, prisoner rape has fueled the spread of HIV inside prisons and in the communities to which prisoners return when they are released.
JDI collaborates with local advocacy groups, corrections officials, and government agencies to end sexual abuse in South Africa’s prisons. Currently, JDI is working with South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services to reform its policies to keep inmates safe and protect their basic right to be free from sexual violence. JDI has also trained hundreds of corrections officials on preventing sexual abuse in detention.
“With the support of JDI and our partners, the Department of Correctional Services has taken important steps to end sexual violence,” said Sasha Gear. “Let’s hope that the comments of an irresponsible official don’t undermine the hard work put in by advocates and committed corrections leaders to rid the country of this shameful abuse.”