Global outrage over gang rape
In a week in which, on average, more than 1 000 incidents of sexual assault will be reported to police, including several instances of rape on school grounds as well as gang rapes, just one has dominated headlines and discussions: the recorded gang rape of a girl from Soweto.
The first appearance of the accused in the matter drew a protest outside the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, after several men and boys were arrested in connection with the case. On Wednesday, a proto-lynch mob in Soweto blamed the girl’s mother for neglect.
The 17-year-old was found at about noon on Wednesday after the Daily Sun, in consultation with the police, published her picture on its front page; she had been missing for three weeks. The newspaper was nonetheless condemned for what many described as exploitation.
The high level of public interest in the matter is expected to put considerable pressure on police investigators and prosecutors. Various groups have expressed the hope that it will also highlight the sheer scale of rape in South Africa, as well as the low number of convictions in rape complaints. The incident, and especially the outrage that followed, spawned news reports around the world and there was coverage on CNN, in the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, the BBC, The Scotsman, Angola Press Agency, Associate Press and Agence France-Presse, among others.
Statements of condemnation and outrage came from the Cabinet, Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, the South African Council of Churches, the ANC Women’s League, national education, the Health and Allied Workers’ Union, Parliament’s portfolio committee on women, children and people with disabilities, the Commission for Gender Equality and the National Youth Development Agency. Others continued to comment on the case during the course of Thursday, the ANC Youth League among them.
Gauteng community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko went to Soweto to check on police progress and attended the initial court proceedings. Both the National Prosecuting Authority and the Film and Publication Board warned that possessing or distributing the video—which has gone viral—would constitute a crime.
But it was on social networks that the general outrage was best reflected. Facebook had hundreds of links to news articles on the case and thousands of comments. On Twitter the issue, under the tag #rapevideo, remained among the top three topics for South Africa throughout Wednesday and Thursday morning.