(Rewrites headline, first paragraph)
By Katy Migiro
NAIROBI, Sept 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - One in four
South African men have committed a rape, most of them during
their teenage years when young men use gang rape
as a way of demonstrating their power when they feel slighted,
said a researcher on sexual violence.
"A boyfriend organises to have sex with his girlfriend and
then he tricks her into a situation where his other friends come
into the room and then the gang rape is perpetrated," Rachel
Jewkes said by phone from South Africa, where experts met this
week to assess research on preventing violence against women.
"Sometimes it is done purely as sport...You get groups of
boys hanging round in rural areas who have got nothing better to
South Africa's Medical Research Council (MRC), where Jewkes
heads the gender and health unit, says half of the South African
men who say they have raped have committed the crime multiple
Sexual violence has gained global attention following U.S.
President Barack Obama's call to end sexual assault of students
and Hollywood star Angelina Jolie's advocacy for women raped in
warzones. Ending violence against women is among the United
Nations new development goals.
At this week's Sexual Violence Research Initiative
conference, researchers presented their latest findings, from
giving pigs to rape survivors to restore their social status to
stopping Ugandan teachers from beating their students.
The key ingredients that emerged as the most important for
preventing sexual violence were getting people to reflect on
gender inequalities and improving their communication skills.
"The bottom line in terms of preventing rape is we have to
change the way in which gender relations are configured and the
way in which men see themselves as men," Jewkes said.
Men rape because they believe it is a legitimate way to
dominate and control women, she said.
All of the effective interventions also teach assertiveness
and conflict-resolution skills.
One school-based intervention presented at the conference,
called PREPARE, showed that giving such lessons to teenagers in
South Africa reduced violence in their sexual relationships.
Childhood experiences are also important - it has long been
known that men who are sexually abused as children often act it
out as adults through rape.
"We are now coming to understand that all forms of child
abuse meted out to boys may translate into a greater likelihood
that boys will end up raping when they are older," Jewkes said.
"Attention is very much turning towards making sure that we
protect boys from emotional abuse and neglect and physical
abuse, as well as preventing sexual violence."
Men's role as family providers can often be a source of
stress which can translate into violence, particularly for the
unemployed, researchers said.
"Men are frustrated, especially poor, black men and coloured
men, and they use violence as a way of claiming their manhood,"
said Yandisa Sikweyiya, an MRC researcher.
"It's violence against peers, violence against partners and
violence against anyone that we feel is disrespecting us."
Violence comes easily in South Africa, Sikweyiya said, as
decades of repression by the white-minority apartheid government
have been followed by disappointment with democracy.
He has worked on several projects, such as one called
Stepping Stones, helping violent young men with multiple sexual
partners to see how dangerous their behaviour is.
"I have seen magnificent things happening in front of me,"
he said, describing how men have pledged to stop abusing their
partners and become better fathers.
But there are still questions over whether changes in
attitude mean changes in behaviour, he said.
Fresh evidence will emerge in the next three years as the
MRC, with funding from the British government, oversees 18
projects aimed at preventing violence against women and girls in
Africa, South Asia and the Middle East.
(Reporting by Katy Migiro; Editing by Ros Russell)