JOHANNESBURG— A South African Court handed down a double life sentence to a young man convicted of raping and disemboweling a teenage girl and leaving her to die on Friday. The judge was unsparing, giving Johannes Kana the maximum possible sentence for raping, mutilating and killing 17-year-old Anene Booysen.
The 21-year-old now faces two concurrent life terms in prison, with no chance of parole. Kana admitted that he raped Anene, but denied killing her.
He told the court that Anene resisted his sexual advances on that night in February in the Western Cape town of Bredasdorp.
So, he said, he punched her in the face, kicked her, knocked her down, raped her and then ran away.
The brutality of her rape and death has riveted South Africa. A doctor told a local newspaper that the attackers sliced open the girl's body and pulled out her intestines with their hands.
Top South African officials, including the police minister, have praised the sentence.
Bianca Valentine, an attorney for the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, concurs with that praise. But, she says, Anene’s case is a rare instance of justice being done. Her Johannesburg-based organization assists women who are victims of violence.
“I think that overall, unless you have extensive media coverage or you have victims who are being assisted by a well-structured and well-financed organization [that] is able to push the legal system, victims of sexual violence do not receive adequate and effective justice through the criminal justice system," said Valentine.
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 say they have raped a girl or woman. One in seven men surveyed anonymously admit to taking part in a gang rape.
Still, Valentine says, Anene’s case has raised awareness in South Africa. It has been the most-watched rape case here since President Jacob Zuma was tried and acquitted of raping a family friend in 2005.
Referring to a controversial rape trial in Kenya, Valentine said sexual-violence incidents should be prosecuted firmly everywhere.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Nairobi on Thursday demanding justice for rape victims, after a teenage girl's rapists were forced to cut grass by local police as punishment for their crimes.
The 16-year-old victim has been confined to a wheelchair since she was gang-raped in June in western Kenya.
Valentine says all African nations need to push for better prosecution of all sexual violence cases, not just those that grab headlines.
“It’s a joke. And a country like Kenya," she said. "They should be setting an example to the rest of Africa so that this exposure and emphasis placed on the crimes against women, especially sexual violence, and that when a country like Kenya is not putting enough pressure on police and the prosecutorial system to recognize that in a sense sexual violence against women is an offense to the dignity and the worth of women, it sets a very bad precedent for the rest of Africa.”
Anene’s family did not have any immediate comment after Friday's sentencing.
When the girl's foster mother visited her rocky, unadorned grave two days ago, on Wednesday, she told a reporter had expected to be spending the day baking Anene’s favorite orange cake and celebrating with friends and family.
Wednesday would have been Anene's 18th birthday.