President Jacob Zuma

Parliament - The second day of debate in the National Assembly on last week's state-of-the-nation address featured urgent calls for President Jacob Zuma to act on rape and similar abuse.

“The abuse of women has reached a tipping point.... The hourly abuse of children in this country has reached pandemic proportions,” Congress of the People MP Juli Kilian told MPs on Wednesday.

Thanking Zuma for his announcement that special sexual offences courts would be re-introduced, she warned that this on its own was not enough to halt the “horrific scourge”.

Kilian said South African women were angry.

“We have had enough. We demand a paradigm shift from men in society. Treating the symptoms of what is essentially a collapse of the social fibre of our nation, a sociological and criminal national disease, is clearly not working,” she said.

Earlier, Democratic Alliance MP James Selfe said the number of rapes reported in recent weeks - including the rape, mutilation and murder of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in Bredasdorp, in the Western Cape Ä had left South Africans outraged.

“South Africans are... outraged. There are calls for the re-introduction of the death penalty and for the castration of sexual offenders.”

The country had earned a reputation as the “world leader in crimes against women and children”.

Selfe said studies showed that only a fraction of the rapes that occurred were actually reported to the police.

“According to police statistics, 64 514 sexual offences were reported in 2011/12, but according to the annual report of the National Prosecuting Authority, only 6193 sexual offences cases were finalised, of which only 65 percent resulted in successful convictions.”

This meant only 4025 cases resulted in conviction: a rate of 6.1 percent of cases reported to the police.

“The women against whom these crimes were committed were let down by the system.”

Selfe said there were not enough sexual offences courts, not enough police officers trained to handle these crimes, and the forensic laboratories were “too slow” processing evidence.

African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe called for the “severest punishment” for those found guilty of rape.

“South Africa's rape statistics are like a country at war with itself. We have the highest number of reported rapes in the world.”

It needed to be acknowledged that the country had “a serious, endemic and sustained culture of extreme violence against women and girls”.

He called for “drastic action” by the government.

“There are a few important things the ACDP believes should be done to help drastically lower the incidence of rape in our country.”

Among these was that those convicted of murder and rape should never be granted parole.

“A clear message must be sent to the public that rapists will be dealt with harshly and those found guilty will be severely punished.”

Meshoe also said most people in South Africa wanted the death penalty reinstated.

“A government of the people by the people should listen to the people,” he said. - Sapa