- JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -
South Africa is in shock over a surge in the rape of children and even
babies, fueled by a myth that sex with a virgin will protect a man against
AIDS, activists said on Monday.
- When six men appeared in court in the Northern Cape town
of Upington for the rape of a nine-month-old girl on Monday, some 3,000
protesters demonstrated outside demanding the reinstatement of the death
penalty for the alleged attackers.
- "South Africa has reached a new low...it's one case
of many," said Kelly Hatfield, director of a group called People
to Women Abuse (POWA).
- "A lot of it is to do with the myth that a man will
be cured of AIDS by having sex with a virgin, and how much more virginal
can you get than a baby?"
- Instead of decreasing with more AIDS education, the myth
had taken hold in South African society, she said.
- South Africa already has the world's highest incidence
- Three days before the nine-month-old was attacked last
week, a three-year-old was raped, allegedly by her grandfather. In the
same week a 14-month-old was assaulted by her two uncles.
- Police statistics reveal that 21,000 cases of child rape
or assault were reported in the past year. Most were committed by male
relatives of the victims.
- With one in nine South Africans living with HIV-AIDS,
sexual assault was often a death sentence for the victim, said Glenys van
Halter of South Africa Stop Child Abuse.
- One of the nine-month-old's attackers was believed to
have the virus, said van Halter, who visited the victim's family.
- Van Halter said that while the AIDS myth was fuelling
the increase in child abuse, unemployment, poverty and alcoholism also
played a big part.
- "That's also driving this tremendous increase in
child abuse. There's an anger, a disempowerment," she said. "At
the moment all we're doing is putting out fires."
- Hatfield said the country's hope was its post-apartheid
constitution, billed as one of the most liberal in the world, and its
which she urged to consistently hand down harsh sentences for
- But progressive laws were often at odds with reality,
- "We need the government to acknowledge the
between positive legislation and poor service delivery on the ground,"
- "South Africa has a history of violence, we
through violence and it will be a long time before we move away from
Site Served by TheHostPros