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Outrage in South Africa over rape of teenage girl

The rape and gruesome mutilation of a teenage girl in South Africa has sparked a rare outburst of anger in a country that often appears numb to sexual violence.

Anine Booysen, 17, was found disembowelled at a construction site in the southwestern town of Bredasdorp at the weekend and later died in hospital.

She was reportedly lured away from her friends by a group of men while walking home from a club and it is suspected she was gang-raped, but police said Thursday they were still investigating.

The case has shocked the nation, which has one of the world’s highest rates of reported rape and where tales of sexual violence are commonplace.

“The whole nation is outraged at this extreme violation and destruction of a young human life,” President Jacob Zuma said in a statement.

“This act is shocking, cruel and most inhumane. It has no place in our country,” he said.

“We must never allow ourselves to get used to these acts of base criminality to our women and children.”

Official statistics show that around 65,000 sexual offences were committed in South Africa last year alone.

But police estimate that only one in 36 rape cases get reported.

The teenager’s aunt, Pauline Harmse, described some of the injuries as recounted to her by the victim’s mother.

“They raped her first and then cut her stomach through to the legs. Both legs were broken and everything inside… was out, her intestines, her lungs, everything,” Harmse told AFP.

“If they had wanted to rape her, why didn’t they just do it and leave her alive. I think there’s more to it (the attack).”

One of the alleged attackers was a friend to the girl and was known to the family.

Public broadcaster reporter Nomawethu Solwandle, who interviewed the girl’s mother, said Anine was so badly mutilated that had it not been for her shoes, she wouldn’t have recognised her.

She said on SAfm that the mother told her “all her fingers were broken, her legs were broken, her stomach had been cut open you could see her intestines…her throat was also slit.”

Health Department spokeswoman Faiza Steyn could only describe the injuries to AFP as “horrific”.

The Cape Argus newspaper cited a witness saying that the teenager’s body was cut open from her stomach through to her genital area, and exposed her internal organs.

Two suspects have been arrested and one of them appeared in court this week on murder and rape charges.

Studies have found that more than one quarter of South African men admitted to raping a woman or girl.

Government spokeswoman Pumza Williams said the “frequent occurrence of these brutal acts is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. This has to stop.”

An “appalled and disgusted” Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the main labour movement, has called for protests against rape.

“When a very similar incident occurred in India recently, there was a massive outbreak of protest and mass demonstrations in the streets,” COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven said Wednesday, referring to the December gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi that shocked the world.

“We must show the world that South Africans are no less angry at such crimes and make an equally loud statement of disgust, and protest in the streets,” he said.

The ruling ANC women’s league has also voiced its disgust.