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Africa correspondent Jane Standley
"Neo was attacked in broad daylight"
 real 56k

Monday, 27 November, 2000, 13:32 GMT
SA: Standing up to rapists
Violence agaisnt young girls is on the rise
By Mohammed Allie in Cape Town

Berenice Trout, a petite mother of two, was nearly beaten to death by her husband two years ago.

One of the doctors said to me I was lucky to be alive because of the type of injuries I had

Berenice Trout
"He abused me quite severely on about four occasions. The last time he broke my nose, bust my eardrum, the bags under my eyes were swollen and blood had clotted there. I looked a terrible sight - my whole body was bruised.

"I had a few broken ribs and one of the doctors said to me I was lucky to be alive because of the type of injuries I had - he could have broken one of my ribs and it could have pierced my lung or my heart which could have resulted in my not being here today."

Countless stories like this, are why Cape Town's inter-religious forum organised a march of thousands of men on Saturday to condemn violence against women and to call for tougher measures against perpetrators.

Bad record

South Africa has one of the world's worst records when it comes to the abuse of women and children.

Awareness is increasing
Although no accurate figures are available because of under-reporting, non-governmental groups believe that about 30% of South African women have been raped.

Gang rape is a common feature in the townships as young men try to establish themselves as members of the many gangs around the country.

Abuse of young girls is also on the increase.

Just a few months ago six young girls were raped, murdered and buried in shallow graves in different parts of Cape Town while last August 14-year old Valencia Farmer, was gang raped and stabbed several times before being left for dead.

Turning point?

Welfare Minister Zola Skweyiya feels the march represents a turning point in the fight against the physical and sexual abuse of women and children.

It's a way of life and they're not going to give it up easily

Counsellor Marcelle Londt
"The people of South Africa and in particular the people of Cape Town are saying enough is enough. The fact that the men have participated is itself a very good sign and we hope it won't be the last time such an event takes place to highlight the problem of abuse of women," she said.

As a victim of abuse herself, Berenice Trout is happy that events like the march is proof that something is finally being done to arrest a terrible situation.

"It's a very positive step to make people aware of what is actually happening and the fact that so many people turned out for something like this - women and men all together - shows that people are becoming a lot more aware of it.

"If we can have more such events I'm sure the abusers will realise that people are taking note of their actions."

Battle ahead

But while many are hopeful that events like Saturday's march will reduce violence against women in South Africa, Marcelle Londt, who counsels abused women, believes that a long and hard battle still lies ahead.

"Men who use sexual violence, who use violence against women - they're almost addicted to living out that kind of pathology.

"The more we try and curb them the more they try and find ways to continue being violent. It's a way of life and they're not going to give it up easily.

The more women's groups, the more advocacy groups and lobbyists try to protect the rights of women and children the more men step up their own war against women and children."

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See also:

12 Oct 00 | Africa
South Africa: Biter bit
13 Oct 99 | Africa
Fighting back against rape
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