A 17-year-old South African girl died of injuries inflicted in a gang-rape at the weekend, provoking rare outrage on Wednesday in a country inured to some of the world’s highest levels of sexual violence.
The victim had been brutally cut and dumped on a building site in the town of Bredasdorp, 130 kilometres east of Cape Town, the Cape Argus newspaper reported.
The victim identified one of her attackers before she died, it said. Hospital staff who battled to save her life were given counselling because of the horrific nature of her injuries.
The case has echoes of the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus that has triggered huge protests in India against endemic anti-female violence.
The Bredasdorp murder is unlikely to provoke such a large-scale outpouring of anger in South Africa, where women’s groups say rape has lost the power to shock.
“It is difficult to find reason behind the many different acts of gang rape, child rape, rape of the elderly, corrective rape and male rape,” the Women’s League of the ruling African National Congress said in a statement.
“Men and women need to join hands around this issue and fight this epidemic together. The Women’s League and a few women’s NGOs can no longer be the lone voices crying out against rape.”
South Africa’s statistics agency concluded in 2000 that it had the highest reported rape rate of all 120 Interpol member countries. Even when suspects are caught, only 12 per cent of cases end in conviction.
Sexual crimes rarely spark media outrage.
One rare exception was when seven men aged between 14 and 20 went on trial last year for raping a mentally handicapped 17-year-old girl and recording it on a cell-phone video that later went viral. The case is continuing.
Even then, the incident spurred little beyond some soul-searching editorials and anguished radio phone-ins.
“If the gang-rape of a mentally handicapped 17-year-old failed to get thousands on the streets in protest, what will?” columnist Rachel Davis asked in the online publication Daily Maverick.