For years, South African women and men have come to Rustenburg Local Municipality in droves, attracted by its location at the heart of the world’s largest platinum group metals repository. Opportunities in mining have caused the population to balloon, making the town northwest of Johannesburg the fastest-growing municipality in the country.
But while employment has been abundant, it is largely men who have benefited.
Nearly 90 percent of Rustenburg’s mineworkers are men, while women, who have likewise flocked to the town from rural South Africa and nearby countries, struggle to find jobs. A Doctors Without Borders report released Tuesday suggests that this imbalance has carried insidious consequences: “Many females in Rustenburg may be financially dependent on men … [making] women less likely to report violence by a partner they depend on.”
Doctors Without Borders surveyed 800 women between 18 and 49 years old in Rustenburg late last year. One in four said they had been raped in their lifetime, but among them, only 5 percent had reported the incidents to a health worker.
When measured against the town’s population, these results suggest that about 50,000 (mostly migrant) women in Rustenburg have been raped — “shocking but not uncommon statistics in South Africa,” the report said.
Interpol findings in 2012 labelled South Africa “the world’s rape capital,” a title also associated with India and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but reliable numbers are unavailable because a vast majority of rapes are believed to be unreported.
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