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Media united in outrage over rape

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By Jenni Evans

Johannesburg - The public outcry about the rape and murder of Bredasdorp teenager Anene Booysen shows that people are “sick and tired of this”, Commission for Gender Equality spokesman Javu Baloyi said on Friday.

“For once people are united behind this. We are not trying to outwit each other,” Baloyi said of editorials and social media commentary about the crime.

Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry profiles were changed to logos advocating a stand against rape, and a cartoon by Jerm (Jeremy Nell) of a bloodied hand with the words “please stop raping me” was shared and tweeted.

Booysen, 17, was found raped and severely injured at a construction site on Saturday morning and died in hospital that night.

Three people have been arrested. One has already appeared in court. The other two are due to appear on Tuesday.

The Star joined LeadSA with a front page promotion headlined “Stand up Against Rape”, and Talk Radio 702 played a sonar beep every four minutes on Friday to raise awareness about rape.

This followed a BBC website article titled: “Will South Africans Ever Be Shocked by Rape?”

“In recent days commentators and campaigners here have looked, almost enviously, towards India, wondering what it might take to provoke a similar sense of outrage Ä and angrily debating whether outrage itself is enough, and who, or what, to blame,” wrote BBC News Africa correspondent Andrew Harding.

There were protests and international media coverage of the gang rape of a girl on a bus in India in December.

By Friday afternoon, the hashtag #StopRape was trending on Twitter, and anti-rape marches were being organised around South Africa.

Cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro published a cartoon featuring Booysen in the Mail & Guardian on Friday. It resembled the First National Bank advert which caused controversy earlier this year.

The cartoon shows Booysen as a ghost standing on a stage reading: “... There will be a day, a day when the gang rape, disembowelment and murder of a 17-year-old girl would actually result in more than 15 minutes of public outrage and the usual lip service from the authorities. That day should be today. Inkosi Sikelele iAfrica...”

On the brick wall behind Booysen is a school emblem which reads “Bredasdorp... or any place. Rape for all”.

Written under the Constitutional Court's logo on the right-hand side is “The Constitution. How the hell can it help you?”

Baloyi said a quick statement of condemnation released by President Jacob Zuma “the highest office in the land”, had increased the amount of media coverage and heightened awareness of the crime.

Zuma described it as “shocking”, “cruel”, and “inhumane”.

Baloyi said: “The messaging is not contradictory. Everyone is saying the same thing. There is no trying to be political in this issue.”

Anton Harber, Caxton Professor of Journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand, said an aspect of the media coverage of Booysen's rape was that it was a non-political matter.

“So it meant all sorts of different people could speak out about it without venturing into party politics,” he said.

“The president spoke more strongly about this than about Marikana,” said Harber, referring to a police shooting in which 34

striking workers at Lonmin Platinum's mine in Marikana died in August.

Social media also allowed ordinary people to be more vocal.

However, “a bit of caution” was still required, he said.

“We will want to deal with the issue, and not start a kind of bloodlust for alleged perpetrators.”

Media studies consultant Desiray Viney wondered whether there would be a greater focus on crime in the Western Cape, instead of other places like Limpopo, given the political rivalries in the Western Cape.

“That's what struck me this morning, that for the more mainstream media there is going to be a lot more coverage of rape and violence in the Western Cape.”

At the same time, social media also meant people were able to express themselves more than they used to be able to, she said.

Friday's mainstream media coverage included an editorial in The Citizen, which called on South Africans to take collective responsibility in the fight against sexual crimes, and a full page poster on page 11 of The New Age, reading “Enough is enough!” - Sapa

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