Victims often unable to get justice
There has been an alarming increase in the number of disabled people in KwaZulu-Natal being raped, according to Bulelwa Mbolekwa, manager of Disabled People South Africa (DPSA) in the province.
Speaking to Sowetan at a conference on rape and the disabled hosted by DPSA in Durban on Monday and yesterday, Mbolekwa said the increase in sexual assaults on the disabled was evident from calls by rape victims to a call centre in Durban.
Most of the victims were HIV-positive, he said.
"The victims are all women. Unfortunately, there's little they can do. Rapes occur in homes. The perpetrators are people known to the victims and include uncles, brothers and fathers," she said.
Mbolekwa said disabled people were often unable to report cases of rape.
"A woman who is deaf and mute was raped and when she went to open a case at the police station she was asked if she could identify the perpetrator and as a result she could not open the case.
"These are some of the challenges we are faced with," Mbolekwa said.
Ntokozo Skhakhane [not her real name] said she was raped by her uncle who believed that having sex with her would cure him of his HIV infection.
"By sleeping with a disabled person, you won't get cured of Aids. People must realise that they are not doing us favours by raping us," she said.
Mbolekwa said there were other challenges facing disabled people. There is the myth that disabled people are not sexually active and thus are immune to sexually transmitted infections.
She said the problem was not only with the general public but with government institutions as well.
"Disabled people are not treated like abled persons, even at hospitals.
"One of our members went to a hospital to do voluntary counselling and testing but she was asked how she has sex because she is in a wheelchair."
Thoko Khumalo, who is epileptic and HIV-positive, said the biggest problem faced by disabled people was the lack of support from their friends and family.
"I experienced a lot of problems with my family. They were not supportive initially, but at the end they accepted me, but it was complicated," Khumalo said.
The conference resolved that disabled people form local structures to deal with the pandemic in the home areas.