Editorials

Disgraceful war against women

The Leader

The M&G shares thoughts on the alleged gang rape of a 15-year-old girl on the Jules High School and Netcare's involvement in organ trafficking.

The allegations of the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl on the Jules High School campus in Jeppestown rocked the nation.

It wasn’t just that she was drugged; that the heinous, brutal attack was recorded on a cellphone; that the recording of the vicious act was circulated and—if we believe some early reports—that some educators laughed when they saw the video that was so devastating.

It wasn’t the chilling comments from the school pupils, some of whom told our reporters that watching the incident was “like watching soccer” and that the victim looked like she “was enjoying herself” that makes it so shocking.

It wasn’t even the reports of police not initially arresting the boys suspected of being involved because they needed to take their exams; nor was it their later release, reportedly because of a lack of evidence, that makes the incident entirely deplorable. And it wasn’t the fact that the latest reports seem to be an attempt to discredit the victim by saying she was drunk, not drugged. No.

The saddest part of the entire case is the fact that our outrage probably won’t last another week. We’ve known about this problem in our schools for years. Baby rape is rampant, “corrective rape” of lesbians is accepted practice in some areas, and gang rape all too prevalent. There is a war against women and children in our country and the weapon is rape.

The truth is we leave it to civil society to deal with. We wait for Sonke Gender Justice to condemn leaders such as Julius Malema, who was only backing President Jacob Zuma’s account of his rape accuser when he made his “she enjoyed herself” comment.

Then we shake our collective heads in disbelief when those comments come out of the mouths of babes.

We hope women like Lisa Vetten, the director of Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, will continue to shout on our behalf, that Gender Links will keep holding 16 Days of Activism each year in its too often unheard effort to tell the world about violence against women. We, the media, tell the story of the victim and unravel the horrific details.

And the next hour, day, week, we, too, move on. Until the next woman or child or baby is attacked.

We can’t leave this up to civil society any longer. We need to shift our national mentality. We need awareness in every crevice of our nation. We need to have the SABC broadcast public service announcements, with leaders like Malema telling the nation that real men don’t rape women—and don’t even utter comments that undermine women’s rights in this way.

We need every type of media to tell the stories of our daughters, our nieces, our grandmothers, our mothers, our wives, our girlfriends, our sisters and our aunts, so that every man, woman and child clearly understands that rape affects us all.

Will this be the one case, because of the shock factor, that won’t allow us to avert our eyes, that will force us to admit how bad it really is? We doubt it. And that might be the saddest part of it all.

Simply nauseating
Listening to top brass from private hospital group Netcare trying to spin the company’s involvement in organ trafficking this week was nauseating to a degree that just about had us seeking treatment.

“We were defrauded,” thundered chief executive Richard Friedland on Radio 702.

He went on to praise St Augustine’s hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, where 109 illegal kidney transplants took place, as a state-of-the-art facility and the surgeons who did the cutting as “doyens” in the field.

The company admits that “certain employees” must have been aware of the scheme to hook up poor Brazilian donors with wealthy Israeli patients, but wants us to accept that it bears no larger responsibility for its involvement in the organ trade.

Are we really supposed to believe that 109 operations over a period of two years, netting R21-million in turnover, never raised the flicker of a management eyebrow?

Are we supposed to believe that no one, apart from a few unnamed, and presumably junior staff, found it unusual that the 218 Israelis and Brazilians who claimed to be related passed in pairs through hospital doors in that period?

The R4-million fine extracted by the state, and additional R3, 8-million handover of ill-gotten profit to the assets forfeiture unit suggests otherwise.

Certainly Friedland’s “doyens”, who still face prosecution, must have known.

The larger point is that they, and Netcare, had a massive incentive not to act on their suspicions. Transplantation is high-end medicine and it is massively profitable—as the company’s R3, 8-million return on R21-million in turnover suggests.

It is also among the most ethically complex areas of medicine, with individual patients, donors and doctors required to make enormously difficult decisions regarding their motivations and future health.

Even where no money changes hands between donor and recipient, private hospitals have an interest in ensuring that they get to do operations of this kind, and the cash on offer could seriously distort the ethical choices.

The profit motive also has the potential to affect decisions about the allocation of scarce organs between the state and private sectors.

In the short term, we are looking forward to a vigorous prosecution of the doctors involved, but what we really need is serious debate about the ethics of transplantation in South Africa and the regulatory environment that governs it.

Some real contrition from Netcare would help with the nausea too.

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