By Tamara Alfred
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
A cell phone video allegedly showing a group of seven Soweto youths filming themselves raping a 17-year-old girl, who is said to have the mental age of a five-year-old, went viral on Twitter in South Africa.
Eight suspects, between 14 and 20 years of age, were arrested Tuesday morning and charged with kidnapping and rape, according to police spokesperson Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela.
“The video is very bad. The men can be clearly identified as they take turns raping and filming her,” Makhubela told CNN.
“The girl can be heard pleading with the boys to stop,” journalist Mandy Weiner reported. “They crudely jest and crassly spur one another on.”
The Daily Sun, a local tabloid, reports that it was the one to alert the police after a concerned mother who caught her daughter watching the video handed it over to the paper.
“The mother of a teenage girl saw the horrifying pictures and confiscated her daughter’s phone. A work colleague of the woman said they recognized some of the boys and advised her to take the video to Daily Sun,” the newspaper reporter. Interestingly, the colleague did not advise the woman to go the police directly.
The paper reports that the video lasts just over 10 minutes and the girl can be heard shouting “you are forcing me” repeatedly.
The Sun was also the one to inform the victim’s mother. The woman reportedly said that her daughter had been a victim of rape since age 12.
“People took advantage of her illness and because my family is poor,” the Sun quoted her as saying.
The girl’s mother reported her missing on March 21. Media reports suggest the police initially failed to open a missing persons case, but that the girl has since now been found. Police suspect the girl was kidnapped and turned into a sex slave.
A local radio station got hold of the video and has been receiving requests to post it. Eyewitness News editor Katy Katopodis stated that the station would never do that.
“To those asking for the #rapevideo link that #EWN reported on today. Stop! Not happening! We’d never put it on our site. Illegal & wrong,” Katopodis posted on Twitter.
According to the Film and Publication Board CEO Yoliswa Makhasi, the Films and Publications Act states that minors may not be used or featured in pornographic content and the creation, possession and distribution of child pornography is illegal. Authorities have warned anyone who has received a copy of the video to delete it or risk being charged under these laws.
A popular radio talk show host broke down Wednesday morning as she encouraged listeners to come up with solutions to the problem of rape in the country. According to the latest police statistics more than 60,000 cases of sexual assault were reported in the year ending March 2011, down from 70,000 in 2008. NGOs estimate a woman is raped every 26 seconds in the country. Women’s rights activist Lisa Vetten says that in the province where Johannesburg is located, one in every five rapes is a gang rape.
“Rape is a young man’s crime. It’s a bit of a performance for them, showing off to each other how macho they are,” said Vetten. “We need to teach our young men that you can be masculine in ways that do not involve violence and degrading women.”
Experts say that the South African government is well aware that the problem needs urgent attention. “We are not lacking in terms of legal instruments to deal with this kind of thing,” said Nomboniso Gasa, an expert on gender and culture. “What we lack are ways of making these instruments effective.”
The country has created a ministry of women and children headed by Lulu Xingwana precisely to deal with violence against women and other related matters. Xingwana says that this case will be a high priority. “Distributing child porn is illegal in this country so the police must confiscate this video,” said Xingwana in a radio interview. Furthermore, “[i]n addition to the painful ordeal of rape the young woman was forced to endure, she is now subjected to a second assault on her dignity (the video),” Xingwana added.
For more information, please see:
BBC News – Outrage in South Africa over internet rape video – 18 April 2012
CNN – Shocking rape video goes viral in South Africa – 18 April 2012
South African Press Association – South Africa: Board Warns About Rape Video – 18 April 2012