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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs