The time for action against rape is now

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Could it be that the gang-rape and murder of a Cape Town teenager will finally shake South Africa out of its stupor regarding rape? Is it possible that the unprecedented communal anger shown in India to the gang-rape of a student, who subsequently died late last year, has had a ripple effect on our national psyche?

In South Africa half of all children will have been abused and 45 percent of rapes reported to the police are child rapes, often by men known to the victims. According to surveys, South Africa is a country where a quarter of men admit to have raped, where one in three women can expect to be raped in her lifetime, and where the chances of being raped exceed the chances of getting a proper education.

But today we detect something has changed. Perhaps, finally, in the rape and mutilation of 17-year-old Anene Booysen, who was found dumped in Bredasdorp at the weekend and subsequently died, we have a story so horrific that it can achieve what has not been achieved before. It can unite us as a people to action.

It is hard to put into words the attack, but Anine’s case has prompted unprecedented response in a country known for the abuse and rape of its girls and women. Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron famously headed a television rape awareness campaign, but seldom has reaction to a rape been so immediate, so widespread and so damning as now.

“The whole nation is outraged at this extreme violation and destruction of a young human life,” President Jacob Zuma said, describing the crime against Anine as shocking, cruel… and having no place in South Africa. And while radio presenters and social workers have been reduced to tears, Cosatu has put aside its usual agenda and called for protests against rape.

LeadSA has launched a campaign with its partners, including the Pretoria News, to raise awareness of rape and call for action. If India could stand up and show the world it was angry at what happened to one of its young women, then so can we. The time for action is now.

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