South Africans called to arms over raped teenager

South Africans called to arms over raped teenager

The chime sounds every four minutes on the radio station, reminding listeners that statistically yet another child or woman in South Africa is being raped.

It's also a call to arms for citizens outraged over the gang-rape of a teenager who had her body carved open and was left for dead on a construction site.

While India agonises with its high prevalence of rape because of a fatal attack on a young woman on a bus, South Africans are now becoming galvanised by the attack on the teenager in a small town. Civil society and governments in both countries are saying this must stop.

The injuries to the 17-year-old were so horrific that nurses in the operating theatre, where doctors tried in vain to save her life, are undergoing trauma counselling.

The chimes on Talk Radio 702 are part of a campaign urging South Africans to identify perpetrators of rape that has become endemic. One in four females is raped here according to several studies, from months-old babies to 94-year-old grandmothers.

The Citizen newspaper published an editorial calling for citizens to take collective responsibility in the fight against sexual crimes.

"Somehow, somewhere there must be a tipping point where society is so convulsed by a collective anger over rape that we begin to turn the tide against this terrible scourge," the newspaper said.

And at a busy intersection near Johannesburg's Sandton City, dozens of young men and women wearing black and red waved placards saying "Stop rape."

South Africans appear to be inspired by the mass demonstrations in India that protest a culture of sexual violence and revulsion over the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman on a New Delhi bus who died of internal injuries. India, with a population of 1.2 billion people, had 24,206 rapes reported in 2011. South Africa, population 50 million, reported 2.5 times that number of rapes last year.

Opposition politician Lindiwe Mazibuko described "a silent war against the children and women of this country".

President Jacob Zuma, who was acquitted on charges of raping the daughter of a family friend in 2005, said yesterday "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. But official statistics show less than 10 per cent of reported sexual crimes result in a successful prosecution, making many reluctant to report rape.

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