Atrocious rape and murder shows need for comprehensive approach to sexual violence in South Africa: Pillay

GENEVA (8 February 2013) - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed Friday her shock and deep sadness at the atrocious rape, mutilation and murder of Anene Booysen, a 17-year-old South African woman, and urged a more comprehensive approach to tackling the “pandemic of sexual violence” affecting tens of thousands of women every year in South Africa.

“There is a need for very strong signals to be sent to all rapists that sexual violence is absolutely unacceptable and that they will have to face the consequences of their terrible acts. The entrenched culture of sexual violence which prevails in South Africa must end,” Pillay said.

Anene Booysen was raped and mutilated, allegedly by several men, on February 2, and left for dead on a building site in Bredasdorp, 80 miles east of Cape Town. The following morning she was found, still alive, by a security guard, but died later the same day.

“I welcome the strong reaction by President Zuma and other actors, including political parties, NGOs and trade unions,” Pillay said. “But it should not have taken this particularly atrocious case, involving rape, torture and murder, to underline the urgent need for a more thorough response across the whole spectrum of South African society to tackle the root causes of this pandemic of sexual violence,” she added.

“While the legal framework, and some initiatives, are in place to address sexual violence, much more needs to be done. The fact that tens of thousands of rapes continue to take place every year in South Africa is a clear indication that the problem must be addressed in a much more robust manner,” the High Commissioner said.

South Africa has the highest rates of rape reported to the police anywhere in the world. In 2012, the number of rapes documented by the police rose to over 64,000 – or 175 per day. These figures are believed to considerably underestimate the true number of rapes, as many cases go unreported. A survey released in June by the Medical Research Council of South Africa found that 28 percent of men surveyed had raped a woman or girl, and one in 20 said they had raped a woman or girl in the past year.

“I am deeply disturbed by the fact that arrest and conviction rates of rape perpetrators remain extremely low. This is not only a shocking denial of justice for the thousands of victims, but also a factor that has contributed to the normalization of rape and violence against women in South African society,” Pillay said.

“Violence against women is not only a human rights violation, it is also a brutal manifestation of wider discrimination against women, which is to be understood against the background of subordination of women within the patriarchal system that still exists in South Africa,” Pillay said. “South Africa’s Constitutional Court has emphasized that there is an obligation on the State to protect women against violence.”

“The issue of sexual violence against women is not of concern to women alone. Men must also be part of the solution and have to play an active role in stopping gender-based violence and combatting discrimination,” the High Commissioner said.


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