Johannesburg: In a country where one in four women is raped and where months-old babies and 94-year-old grandmothers are sexually assaulted, citizens are demanding action after a teenager was gang-raped, sliced open from her stomach to her genitals, and left for dead on a construction site last week. The 17-year-old lived long enough to identify one of her attackers, a 22-year-old. Police, who have arrested him, said on Thursday that a second suspect, aged 21, has been held and promised more arrests soon.
"Kill them!" was one of the demands voiced on talk show radio stations today. Every few months this African nation with the highest rate of rapes of babies and young girls in the world yells its outrage at a particularly brutal attack. Last year, South Africans were shocked when village boys gang-raped a mentally-ill 17-year-old girl. She was attacked by six boys, the youngest of whom was 10, in a crime that only came to light because the boys made a cellphone video of the rape and posted it on the Internet. It went viral.
The outcry over Saturday's rape in Bredasdorp, a Western Cape town known for its giant protea flowers, led President Jacob Zuma to vow today "that government would never rest until the perpetrators and all those who rape and abuse women and children, are meted with the maximum justice that the law allows". The maximum sentence for rape in South Africa is life in prison. The death sentence has been abolished.
A 2009 study conducted by Professor Rachel Jewkes, a doctor heading the Women's Research Unit of South Africa's Medical Research Council, found that 62 per cent of surveyed boys over age 11 said they believed that forcing someone to have sex was not an act of violence. One-third said girls enjoy being raped.
That study found one-quarter of South African women are raped but only one in 25 report it to the police. Of those who were not raped by a partner, one in 13 had never reported the rape, and many had been raped more than once, Jewkes said. That casts doubt on police statistics which said sexual crimes decreased from 70,514 in 2009 to 64,419 last year.
Females make up half of South Africa's population of 50 million. A British documentary, "Lost Girls of South Africa," concludes girls here have a bigger chance of being raped than of completing high school.