Friday, February 15, 2013

Heidi Swart: Will Anene Booysen's brutal rape and murder shake the nation into action?

Mail & Guardian
February 15, 2013.

While India raged, South Africa's response to Anene's rape has been muted by comparison. Why? This is the first of a five-part series on rape.

The two women will never know each other but their names are now inextricably linked – Anene Booysen and Jyoti Singh Pandey.

Before they died, they had little in common. Pandey was a 23-year-old living and studying physiotherapy in New Delhi. More than 9 000km away, Booysen was a 17-year-old ­living in Bredasdorp, a small rural town nearly 200km southeast of Cape Town. She never finished school but had recently found a job as a cleaner at a construction company in town.

By now the two young women have become connected in the minds of the South African public after each was repeatedly raped by a group of men. Both were disembowelled and both died from the wounds their attackers inflicted on them.

Pandey was attacked last year on December 16 by six men, who allegedly raped her repeatedly and bludgeoned her with an iron rod. She had boarded a bus in South Delhi to go home in the early evening after watching a film with a male friend. The two were trapped and the attack started, her friend was beaten as well but he survived. Both were left for dead at the side of the road. Reports say that doctors operated to remove large sections of her intestines in an effort to save her but Pandey died of her ­injuries in hospital on December 29. All six of her alleged assailants are standing trial.

Fast forward six weeks. At about 4am on February 2, a security guard found Booysen with parts of her intestines next to her in the dirt at a construction site. She had been gang raped and died about six hours later in hospital – after identifying one of her attackers. Two men, Jonathan Davids (23), who is reported to be Booysen’s ex-boyfriend and a family friend, and Johannes Kana (21), appeared in the Bredasdorp Magistrate’s Court this week on charges of rape and murder.

There were some similarities in the public reaction to the two attacks. But in India, the public outcry became a high-pitched wail that spread across the region.

Read the rest here.

Comment: South Africa is a country steeped in denial, particularly about the level of violence against women that has been normalized throughout society.

I am not surprised that folks have not taken to the streets.  We not in the streets because few people believe that anything will change. 

South Africa is an abnormal society characterized by a chronic trauma that leads most to just shake their heads and plod on best they can.

For the vast majority of people, including the mother of Anene Booysen, it is a daily struggle just to survive.

What is missing for things to be different are leaders of moral and ethical conviction that can provide an alternative reality, for lack of a better term.

In the meantime more women will be brutalized and killed and more painful memories will be added to the ones that now lie similarly disfigured in our past.

And we are not free.


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