/ 18 April 2012

Women’s league condemns ‘depraved’ videotape rapists

The ANC Women’s League is outraged, angered and disgusted at the gang rape of a 17-year-old Soweto teenager, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

The rapists were “depraved” and some of them were “old enough to be called men” but did not deserve the dignity associated with the ideal of manhood, said spokesperson Troy Martens.

The girl, who was reported missing on March 25, was found in a man’s house in Braamfischerville just before noon on Wednesday, Warrant Officer Kay Makhubele said.

It appeared she had been kept there against her will.

Earlier on Wednesday, a video of her being raped by at least seven men went viral and became one of the main topics trending on social networking site Twitter.

The rape was apparently filmed on a cellphone last week.

Martens said the women’s league joined the search for the girl on Wednesday.

When she was found in the man’s house, he told the police she was his girlfriend and that she had told him she was 19-years-old, Martens said.

“This child is said to have the mental capacity of a five-year-old and is therefore not capable of consent; this man must face the full might of the law and be charged with rape,” she said.

Commending swift action
On Tuesday five men and two boys, who matched the descriptions of those seen in the video, were arrested in Dobsonville.

Martens said parents should take responsibility for their children and instil in them — boys in particular — morality and respect for women.

She applauded the woman who found the video on her child’s cellphone and went to the police.

“We would like to commend the swift action taken by police in arresting the culprits and [their] dedication to finding the missing girl.”

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga warned the public against accessing the video, as it constitutes child pornography.

“Possession [and] circulation of child pornography is a criminal offence and we won’t hesitate to prosecute anyone arrested by the police,” he said.

Film and Publications Board chief executive Yoliswa Makhasi said she was shocked and angered by members of the public who went looking for the video on social networking sites.

The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union condemned the crime as “barbaric” and said South Africans should be concerned about the prevailing high levels of women abuse.

“The patriarchal attitudes that still exist need all role-players in our societies to work together to educate and agitate for a change in attitudes from males of all ages,” spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said in a statement.

Raising awareness
Proudly South African said it was launching a school road show to raise awareness about sexual abuse. It would begin in Soweto.

Chief executive Leslie Sedibe condemned those who watched and distributed the video of the rape.

“What have we become when children rape children and we as fellow South Africans stand by and watch something so evil, cruel, callous and inhumane? Even watching such a video after the fact is atrocious and abominable.”

The portfolio committee on women, children and persons with disabilities said it “strongly condemned” any form of gender-based violence and circulation of the rape footage.

Committee chairperson Dorothy Ramodibe said the crime illustrated how gender violence continued to plague South African society.

The Commission for Gender Equality said it was appalled by “the levels to which humanity is able to violate the rights of others, particularly women”.

National Youth Development Agency chairperson Andile Lungisa said the government and non-governmental organisations needed to work together to root out violence against women and children.

“It is beyond human comprehension what would [motivate] any human being to engage in such an inhumane act of violence, damaging the dignity of another human being in this manner.”

If those arrested were found guilty of raping the teenager, the law should “have no mercy” on them, he said.

They are expected to appear in the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

Use of images
The media’s use of screen shots and audio clips from the video was “highly problematic”, a media analyst said on Wednesday.

University of the Witwatersrand journalism professor Anton Harber said that while the media could argue that use of the images and audio were in the public interest, the footage should be used only with “extreme caution and sensitivity”.

“However, it would be ludicrous to charge the media over this.”

Mhaga said the NPA had “reservations” about use of the video by the media.

The material would be used as evidence when the matter went to court and could be compromised if it were published or broadcast.

Eyewitness News (EWN) broadcast an audio clip of the rape video, with a warning to sensitive listeners, while the Daily Sun published a screen shot of the girl in a seated position, with men standing around her.

The Daily Sun published a picture of the teenager on its front page but did not print the girl’s name.

Harber said this was “highly problematic” as the girl was both a minor and a rape victim.

Executive decision
Daily Sun general manager Minette Ferreira defended the decision to use the images and said the girl’s mother had given permission for use of the photograph.

“[The girl] had been missing since March. Her mother was desperately looking for her. We published the picture in an attempt to track her and subsequently, in half a day, we found her.”

She said the newspaper had consulted its lawyers and the press ombudsman before printing the pictures.

A reader tipped off the newspaper after finding the rape video on her child’s cellphone.

“We contacted the police immediately and worked with them until she was found. This morning we deleted the video from our system.”

Ferreira said the Daily Sun chose the images carefully to avoid compromising the video evidence.

“In the still, the suspects are unidentifiable and there isn’t anything macabre shown.”

‘As responsible and sensitive as possible’
EWN editor-in-chief Katy Katopodis said her news team carefully selected two five-second audio clips from the video.

“This is not something we entered into lightly.

“The clips we used were very short, edited and non-explicit … We tried to be as responsible and sensitive as possible.”

She said EWN received a large number of requests from the public and other media houses for a link to the video, but refused.

“Our stance is very clear. We can’t distribute something like this.”

The video did not appear on the EWN website and was deleted from the company’s computers.

Katopodis said the audio clips were intended to make the public aware of the “heinous” crime and illustrated that it was rape rather than a consensual act. — Sapa