A new study claims that 44% of 18 year old South African male school pupils have been forced to have sex at least once in their lives.

The report, titled 13,915 reasons for equity in sexual offences legislation: a national school-based survey in South Africa, surveyed 126,696 male school pupils aged 10-19 years in grades 6-11 in 2002.

According to the researchers, Neil Andersson and Ari Ho Foster, some 9% of male respondents aged 11 to 19 years reported forced sex in the last year.

Of those aged 18 years at the time of the survey, 44% said they had been forced to have sex in their lives and 50% reported consensual sex.

Perpetrators were most frequently an adult not from their own family, followed closely in frequency by other schoolchildren. Some 32% said the perpetrator was male, 41% said she was female and 27% said they had been forced to have sex by both male and female perpetrators.

Prior to 2007, forced sex with male children in South Africa did not count as rape but as “indecent assault”, a much less serious offence. The study sought to document the prevalence of male sexual violence among school-going youth.

The results further revealed that male abuse of schoolboys was more common in rural areas while female abuse of boys was more of an urban phenomenon.

“This study uncovers endemic sexual abuse of male children that was suspected but hitherto only poorly documented. Legal recognition of the criminality of rape of male children is a first step. The next steps include serious investment in supporting male victims of abuse, and in prevention of all childhood sexual abuse,” said the report.

The study was published in the International Journal for Equity in Health.

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