skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 76836 Find in a Library
Title: Crime or Affliction? Rape in an African Community
Journal: Culture Medicine and Psychiatry  Volume:4  Issue:2  Dated:(June 1980)  Pages:151-165
Author(s): S Levine
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 16
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Netherlands
Annotation: Using a case history of a man known as an incorrigible rapist, this article discusses the belief system of the Gusii, a tribal community in southwest Kenya and their attitudes toward criminal behavior and rape.
Abstract: Although many Gusii have become Christian and their traditional social structures have collapsed, they still believe that antisocial behavior is caused by malevolent ancestors' spirits or witches. Because Gusii patrilocal society allows for little migration within the tribal area, most crimes are perpetrated against one's relatives and constitute taboo violations of various sorts. Traditional culture was extremely puritanical, and young men were removed from sexual temptation by working as herders and warriors in cattle camps. When the British abolished the camps and forced young men to live at home, warfare was replaced by sexual marauding, and the reported incidence of rape rose markedly. Since the end of colonial rule, sexual puritanism has rapidly disappeared, and young people engage in premarital sex without violent repercussions. However, rape by older men is still a frequent occurrence. The Gusii do not expect secular authorities to handle criminal behavior problems within their community but consult diviners and conduct sacrifices to appease spirits that make an individual commit crimes. Moreover, the Kenyan penal system has only one mental hospital and one prison with a section for the criminally insane. The police or government chiefs tend to intervene only when some grossly violent act has been perpetrated by one stranger against another. The Gusii beliefs and attitudes toward criminals are illustrated by a detailed case history of a 40-year-old man who has been educated as a teacher and inherited extensive lands but also committed rapes since childhood. Both the community and the man did not believe that he was responsible for behavior which had finally destroyed his life but attributed all problems to malevolent spirits. The discussion notes that the Gusii ignored factors in this man's life which would immediately interest western observers, such as a family history of unstable behavior. The community resisted a deviant as a marginal member of society given his education and reputation as a good teacher. The article includes 10 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Case studies; Crime Causes; Cultural influences; Kenya; Rape; Sex offense causes; Sexual assault; Social organization; Unreported crimes
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.