News / Africa

    South Africa Gang Rape Death Shocks Nation

    Anita Powell
    The brutal gang rape and subsequent death of a South African teenager has shocked the nation. South Africa’s incidence of sexual assault is very high, with no relief in sight. But top officials say this latest assault may be a wake-up call, much like the gang rape of a New Delhi woman in December has been for India.  

    Even in a nation considered the rape capital of the world, Anene Booysen’s story is shocking.

    The 17-year-old was found at a construction site in the Western Cape on Saturday. She had been repeatedly raped. A doctor told a local newspaper that her attackers had sliced her open from the stomach down. The doctor said it appeared they had pulled out her intestines with their hands. She died Wednesday.

    A health department official said staffers at the hospital were receiving counseling because her injuries were so horrific.

    Booysen managed to identify one of her alleged assailants before her death - her 22-year-old ex-boyfriend. Three more suspects have been arrested.

    President outraged

    The outrage has reverberated up to the very top. President Jacob Zuma expressed his outrage and called for stiff punishments for the attackers.

    Presidential spokesman, Mac Maharaj, said Booysen’s death could represent a turning point for South Africa, much as the rape and murder of a young New Delhi woman did last year in India.

    “Maybe, in a perverse way, this is something that will trigger a reaction where the entire community, with society as a whole, government, police, the courts and the communities working together will act in concert to stamp out this scourge in our society," said Maharaj. "It is a deep-seated problem and it is not something that can be overcome by one singular act. It needs a change of behavior, not only on the part of the rapist, but it needs a change of behavior amongst all of us so we all become parties to removing this scourge.”

    Rape, a frequent crime

    South African police documented more than 64,000 rapes last year.

    A widely cited 2010 study found that more than a quarter of South African men have admitted to raping a girl or woman. One in seven men admitted to gang rape.

    Gender rights activist Dumisani Rebombo is one of those men. When he was 15, his friends teased him and told him he wasn’t a man. So, in an attempt to prove his manliness, he participated in a gang rape. The victim never reported the crime and he was never charged. But 20 years later, he found her and apologized to her. She told him her life had never been the same.

    Community outcry

    Today, he heads the One Man Can project, which works to educate rural communities about rape. He says he thinks gender inequality is a big factor behind South Africa’s rape epidemic.

    “I cannot say, 'these are the reasons why,' but I think the underlying factor is how we socialize boys and girls, differently, and there many examples we can take. From birth emanates the notion that men are, or should be, superior and should be treated with more respect and dignity than women," said Rebombo.

    He says he doesn’t accept arguments that seem to exonerate men from responsibility.

    “If men, because of patriarchy, could be CEOs of companies and president, and so forth, and be in high positions, I don’t see why men cannot control themselves when they are around women," Rebombo said. "So I don’t take that. I don’t take that men rape because they are poor and they are therefore they were just drinking, because there’s nothing to do. We have poorer countries surrounding South Africa and we don’t have these type of atrocities widely reported."

    March against women's violence

    Activist Zubeida Shaik is one of the organizers of a planned mass march against women’s violence in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

    The marches will be held on Valentine’s Day (February 14), but don’t expect hearts and flowers. That approach, she says, is long gone. Instead, she says, her group is making demands, going into communities and forcing them to confront the problem as a group. She says she’s seeing increasingly brutal attacks on women.

    “We’re placing demands now," she said. "It’s no longer about being polite about rape. It’s not about saying, you know, ‘we’re going to advocate, and we’re going to lobby, and we’re going to do all of this with government structures and institutions etc.’ That’s gone now. We’ve done that. It hasn’t worked, we’ve got to move on, we’ve got to make it a community problem or find solutions within the community because that’s where the problems are."

    An official in the Western Cape told a local news station that young people should not “get into situations at 3 in the morning where they place themselves in danger.”

    Shaik says the official’s comment only contributes to the problem.

    “It’s because of statements and comments like that that people’s perceptions become so warped about this. Because in a sense, he was blaming this young woman. And the same thing happened in India, where they also said, ‘oh, but why was she out at that time of the night?’ Now, if a woman is not free to move around whenever she wants to, wear whatever she wants to, what kind of society are we living in,” asked Shaik.

    That’s a question that South Africa may find itself asking more and more as it confronts the nation's high incidence of sexual assaults.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.