Rape victim charged with sex crimes

South African authorities scrutinized for startling behaviour

By Carl Perks

Activists and children’s rights groups worldwide have expressed their concern over the treatment of a 15-year-old girl in South Africa who is being charged with statutory rape after allegedly being gang-raped by two boys – whose charges have been dropped.

The Sexual Offence Act in South Africa dictates that for a girl to be charged with statutory rape, that girl must have attempted to have unlawful carnal intercourse with a boy under the age of 16 years.

The girl was reported to have been drugged with GHB beforehand, and the rape was filmed by classmates on half a dozen cell phones.

The prosecutors dropped all rape charges relating to the boys due to lack of evidence.

“There are other ways to handle the matter, the prosecutors are sending a horrific and harmful message to other rape survivors that causes great concern,” The Children’s Right Project’s Lorenzo Wakefield told BBC News.

According to the group, South Africa has one of the highest incidences of rape in the world. The country’s Medical Research Council shows statistics that state one woman is raped every 17 seconds.

Dumisani Rebombo, a one-time sexual offender who now works with young men to counteract rape-inducing peer pressure, told the BBC ,‘‘If you asked me: ‘What motivates so many men in South Africa to engage in un-consensual sex’” I would say that it is the machismo feelings and beliefs, coupled with patriarchal processes and tendencies.’’

The People Opposing Woman Abuse (POWA) website says that “only one in nine rapes that take place in South Africa is ever reported. Out of the reported cases, only 7% lead to a conviction”

Professor Rachel Jewkes, who carried out the Medical Research Council’s most recent inquiry on the matter, told the BBC: ‘‘The absolute imperative is we have to change the underlying social attitudes that in a way have created a norm that coercing women into sex is on some level acceptable.’’

Both of the girl’s alleged rapists, aged 14 and 16, are now back in school with no criminal record.

The National Prosecuting Authority is currently attempting to charge all three, including the girl, for consensual sex with a minor.

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