Sexual Abuse Of Girls In South Africa — Condemned Or Condoned?

An average of 24,000 children are sexually assaulted in South Africa each year, according to the South African Police Service (2019/2020 Annual Crime Statistics). 

These are the appalling numbers of a country that was justifiably dubbed the rape capital of the world years ago. And yet, South African authorities claim to condone violence against infants and girls. 

You can find a clear breakdown of what falls under sexual offense crimes on the South African government website.

So why is there so much infant abuse, gender-based sexual abuse, rape, and violence in this country? And what can you do today to reduce the atrocities?

Let’s explore the issue.


What They Say Compared To The Facts

In recent years, South Africa has lauded its numerous strides in improving its child welfare environment. They point to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (established in 1995) and the ratification of the 1995 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Are these policies an example of what “It looks good on paper” appears like for child safety efforts? Because right now, South Africa is still leading the world in reported incidents of child sexual abuse. 

There is an incident of rape in South Africa every 35 seconds.

Considering this type of crime is the most unreported worldwide, the real numbers are still unknown. This should alarm anyone with a heart in their human body.

In addition, the phenomenon of infant rape has had higher numbers in South Africa over the past 20 years than in any other country.

It’s time to rip out some skeletons from this closet. 


The Guilty Often Go Free 

One reason why infant rape and other forms of sexual abuse prevail in South Africa is that the conviction rate for rapists is less than 10% (Richter, Dawes, & Higson-Smith, 2004).

In a recent documentary (source), various officials within the South African judicial system were interviewed. They claimed that the child protection unit within the SAP (South African Police), is understaffed, under-resourced, and underfunded.

They lack the resources to thoroughly investigate and move forward with prosecution. Plus, because of the graphic nature of the crimes, evidence is almost always contaminated by the massive amounts of blood from the infants.

Thus, traditional rape kits don’t work and survivors must be rushed into surgery — making it even harder to collect evidence.

Cases also go unreported because many infants don’t survive the procedures.

So due to poor resources, the violent nature of such crimes, and a fear of further loss, abhorrent rapists get away with evil acts.

Why else is South Africa a haven for such beastly individuals?


A Fear Of Tourism Decline

One controversial argument is how the negative publicity of sexual abuse cases might foster a bad reputation for South Africa. And this can produce a decline in tourism.

Building and sustaining the country’s tourism after years of apartheid is crucial to rebuilding the government.

However, it’s important to consider the lack of humanity inherent in taking such a stance. The safety of children is reason enough to ignore any consequences of letting out a so-called dark secret.

Why so-called?

South Africa already has a reputation for cases of sexual abuse. Why not show more humanity by handling the issue as needed? — Not just talking. Won’t tourists take into account the country’s efforts?

After all, this type of abuse is not a new occurrence and is not unique to South Africa.


Locals Are Too Afraid To Talk

Of course, in some places, just talking is a point of contention.

Unfortunately, it’s no surprise the native population considers it taboo to discuss issues related to infant rape and gender-based violence.

This is the case in many, many places around the world. 

In a December 2021 interview with Health- E News, Precious Robinson from Right to Care and chairperson of the South African Civil Society for Women’s, Adolescents’ and Children’s Health (SACSoWACH) said this

“Some cultures have this tendency of saying if a thing happens within a family, let’s not take it out. It’s a secret, it’s a family issue. Families will often worry about what people will say if they hear about it.”

This enduring attitude requires deeper, on-the-ground, one-to-one work with individuals and units.

A change in culture will take time. 

Change overall doesn’t have to take nearly as long.


The Implied Political Cover-Up

Does it all start in the home, or do we address the seeming corruption?

Well, both. 

But when the powers that be don’t do their part, it’s all the more challenging.

Despite South Africa’s ratifying of the CRC and public stance on the safety of the children, there is still a political cover-up as shown in the lack of funds, resources, and services for both the SAP Child Protective Unit, the South African foster care system and the few NGO’s who are struggling to work on sexual abuse projects.

The lack of resources being funneled to this cause makes it difficult for change to occur.

So what can you do? 

An Easy Way To Fight For Our Girls

You can make a difference by joining our mailing list [link], following us on socials, or by making a donation [link] today to Global Funds for Girls which supports South African grantees fighting for change for girls of color.

And if you want to do more, contact us to start the conversation.