Rape and Murder Stirs Fury in South Africa
BREDASDORP, South Africa — As Anene Booysen lay dying, she whispered to her medics the name of the man who had assaulted her and left her lying in the dirt on a construction site, her bowels spilling from her abdomen.
“Zwai,” Ms. Booysen, 17, told at least two people before she died. Zwai — the nickname of a close friend, Jonathan Davids — and his friends had done this to her, she said.
The next day, the police arrested Mr. Davids, 22, and another man, charging them with rape and murder.
The attack, in February, produced such revulsion and outrage that it quickly became a national symbol of the epidemic of violence against women in South Africa, much as other recent cases have forced national soul-searching on sexual violence plaguing India, Egypt and Brazil.
In some cases, appellate court judges set aside guilty verdicts because they simply do not believe the victim.With the swift arrest of two suspects, hopes were high that the attack on Ms. Booysen would be prosecuted quickly. But just as the trial was about to start last week, the prosecutors made a dramatic announcement. Despite Ms. Booysen’s dying declaration, they did not have enough evidence to prosecute Mr. Davids, and he was set free. […]
Analysts point to the history and culture of South Africa, a deeply patriarchal society that devalues crimes against women and where 19 years after the end of apartheid the criminal justice system is still struggling to transform itself from a security force aimed mainly at protecting the white minority into a professional crime-fighting organization.
The police do not take rape allegations seriously and fail to perform basic detective work, like collecting forensic evidence, said Lisa Vetten, a researcher who worked on the Mpumalanga study. Victims are intimidated by perpetrators, who are quickly released on bail. Prosecutors shy away from taking tough cases, especially those where physical evidence is not available.
In some cases, appellate court judges set aside guilty verdicts because they simply do not believe the victim. Two young men in Limpopo Province were convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl in the bushes near her home in 2007. The girl had been walking to a public telephone when the two men waylaid her, forced her into the bushes and took turns assaulting her, according to the appeals court record.
But in 2012, an appellate court judge set aside the conviction because her account of the assault “has some defects which cannot be ignored.” The victim had failed to run away or scream to passers-by, the judge said. She made up the story about being raped, the judge reasoned, to explain the bleeding from the loss of her virginity. […]