437 young children were raped this month in just one SA province, KwaZulu-Natal. Sowetan journalist Mary Papayya reports. Last December there were 75 reported child-rapes in this province. Some victims didn't survive: they were only a few months old.
Sixty percent of the province's child-rape victims in December were treated at the two public hospitals closed to the most densely-populated suburbs of greater Durban, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial and Prince Mshiyeni Memorial .
Countrywide, last year's latest available statistics from the SA Child Protection Unit noted that some 16,068 children were reported raped last year - out of the total 36,190 rapes reported. A total of 1,400 children were also among the 18,487 people who were murdered last year.
The official police rape statistics show that a total of 36,190 rapes and 6,763 indecent assaults were reported countrywide, of which 6,502 were in KwaZulu-Natal province.
For murder stats see For rape stats see
South Africa has the largest number of recorded child-rapes in the world. This often is due to a widespread belief throughout Southern Africa among traditional healers see that raping a virginal child 'cleanses a man of HIV-AIDS.' Others also blame the grossly overcrowded sleeping conditions in these townships, where extended families often sleep cheek-to-jowl and the females have no privacy at all.
Next child-bearing generation infected with HIV:
Relatives who believe that raping a young virgin brings mystical powers or can even cure AIDS, is devastating families across much of southern Africa because it rapidly spreads the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, to otherwise sexually inactive girls - thus infecting most of the next child-bearing generation.
Police and court officials, social workers and women's rights activists say sexual violence against children is becoming a significant --although mostly unspoken-- contributor to the disease among the youngest generation of this AIDS-stricken continent, where new data show overall infection rates skyrocketing in the last few years.
Men are turning to babies under 10...
"It is hard to find a virgin of 16 nowadays, so men are turning to babies under 10," said Mamelato Leopeng, an AIDS counselor at the Esselen Street Health Center in Johannesburg. "They are looking for clean blood. It is all based on ignorance and a lack of education."
Health officials in South Africa say adolescent girls are getting twice as many new infections with HIV as do boys of their age -- a reflection of their increased sexual activity, often unwilling, with older men.
Condom use rejected
At her Johannesburg clinic, Leopeng said, about one-third of the HIV-infected men she encounters have bought into the belief that sex with a virgin will cure them, and they are further convinced that the needed "dose of purity" is rendered ineffective with a condom.
Confronting sexual issues is so taboo in most African cultures that few families will endure the public shame of acknowledging the abuse, even when they suspect HIV may have been transmitted.
Luke Lamprecht, manager of the Teddy Bear Clinic in Johannesburg - the police referral point for all child sex abuse cases in the metropolis -- says these rapes in the mythical belief that raping virginal chlldren would cure AIDS, are hardly ever reported to his clinic. He was particularly shocked however about one such case, where a four-year-old child's mother had agreed that an HIV-positive man could rape her child in exchange for cash, to try and 'cure' him. There are many reports where parents of all races are also putting their young children out on the streets from an early age to earn money for the family with prostitution. See
This week in Limpopo province police in the town of Ritavi also arrested a traditional healer for raping a 16-year-old girl on December 28 2008. Police inspector N F Nelufule said that the victim was taken to a traditional healer for treatment by her mother and had she left her with the healer.
"When relatives came to visit her, they found that the traditional healer 'was living whith the girl as his wife'. see
And to illustrate that the young rape victims and her guardians also often keep quiet, there's this week arrest in Limpopo province as just one example: A 19 year old man was arrested for raping a 13-year-old girl in March - but the child had kept her ordeal a secret until it was discovered that she was pregnant. After giving birth to a baby boy on 25 Dec 2008 she identified the rape suspect, who was arrested and appeared in court on 29 December, said police superintendent M T Ramatseba.
Dr Lorna Marton of the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at the University of Cape Town blames 'the culture of male sexual entitlement and climate of relatively impunity in which rape is perpetrated. "
Recently in the Free State province's Bloemfontein High Court, an HIV+ soldier, Nkosemntu Ziqhu, was convicted for twelve counts of murder for raping twelve children aged from 11 to 14 years.
He had done so to deliberately infect them with a deadly disease syndrome, the judge had found, noting: "Ziqhu must have known that the extreme violence used, and the open wounds he inflicted on his 12 victims during these rapes, combined with the fact that he wore no condoms would further the chance of these victims being infected with the HI-virus."
He ambushed them in a forested area near the Coca Cola factory south of Bloemfontein, always chosing girls who 'were very slender and frail-looking for their age', it was reported.
Cookie Edwards of the Kwazulu-Natal Network against Violence, said it is “shocking that at a time when children are supposed to be happy they were being robbed of their childhood”.
"And these are just the reported cases. Imagine the ones that go unreported because the victims fear their perpetrators.” Indeed: a local Medical Research Council study on sexual violence indicated in 2005 that only one out of every nine rape survivors ever reported the attack to the police.
A nurse at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal said inadequate housing contributed greatly to the problem of child-rapes in the province.
“Living spaces may be a 10m by 8m room where a large number of individuals live, ten or more. Parents, children, grandparents, uncles or friends all live in a cramped space. People must undress, bathe and sleep in extremely small areas – without partitions. There are no private areas for parents to have sexual relations and members of the family may sleep next to children on the floor, [with] grandfathers or uncles sleeping next to small children.”
A spokesman for ChildLine Kwazulu-Natal confirmed that they had received a huge number of calls from the areas served by the two hospitals.
Rape as revenge by criminals:
Said their spokesman: “The festive season’s child rape and abuse figures show that KwaZulu-Natal has the highest rate of rape and abuse of children in the country. During this season we also noted that rape and violence against children, and the incidents of domestic violence in general, have increased. We are also finding that when criminals rob homes and find no material reward they are increasingly raping children as a form of revenge. Our communities feel helpless and tell us every day that they do not trust the criminal- justice system.
Archaic court system for children who have been raped:
One of the most devastating facts which child rape-victims have to deal with is the archaic court procedures in this regard. Acting head of state prosecutions in KZN-province, Mokotedi Mpshe, paints a devastating picture of how courts, police and doctors are increasingly failing child rape victims. Mpshe said in spite of the promised dedicatedcourts where children could testify in privacy via closed-circuit television, none of these plans have been realised. He said: "Instead of having made progress since 2000, dedicated courts have declined in numbers. "
Unsympathetic, poorly-trained police:
Police often also are unsympathetic and ill-informed in how to deal with child-rape cases: recently in Vanderbijlpark near Johannesburg, a four-year-old girl who had just been treated by a private doctor after her rape ordeal, was forcibly awakened by a police woman -- and forced to tell about the rape she had just endured in full view of members of the public in a public charge office. The police woman then ordered the child re-examined again, this time by a state-medical examination at a provincial clinic, causing considerable increase of her trauma. Also see the growing community involvement in searching for missing children: videoThe kids are fighting back:
In response to the growing rape-epidemic, many South African children are also beginning to fight back. Last year in Swellendam in the Western Cape, about 200 pupils and parents started hunting down a man who had kidnapped one of their little friends, Mikayla Rossouw, 6.
The primary school children formed an increasing angry mob after Mikayla had failed to return from nearby shops. The kids already knew which of the neighbourhood paedophiles was responsible. And they were right: the man, a neighbour they had named as Ulrich Boetie du Toit, 24, was found guilty after Mikayla's lifeless, mutilated body was found in a box under his bed.
The World Health Organisation reports that sexually abused children often suffer a lifetime of physical, emotional and developmental problems that can interfere with their ability to live productive lives.
Source for injury patternsSouth African Child rape: van As AB, Withers M, du Toit N, Millar AJW, Rode H. Child rape: Patterns of injury, management and outcome. S Afr Med J 2001; 91: 1035-1038.