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Thursday, October 28, 1999 Published at 23:09 GMT


World: Africa

Mbeki questions SA rape figures

Mr Mbeki: SA is failing to halt violence against women

South African President Thabo Mbeki has questioned police statistics suggesting that nearly 2m people are raped in South Africa every year, making it the highest rate in the world.

Speculative figures "will not help us properly to fight against the terrible crime of rape", said Mr Mbeki.

However, he said that even one rape was too many, and he said he was saddened to see a country which had defeated apartheid failing so miserably in its battle against sexual violence.


[ image:  ]
Mbeki told Parliament that police published statistics in 1997 alleging that only one rape out of 36 was reported, and with 52,000 reported that year an extrapolation was made to more than 1.8 million rapes, but the police themselves have no idea how this one in 36 figure was reached.

Mr Mbeki also defended his government's refusal to make the anti-AIDS drug, AZT, available to rape victims and pregnant mothers.

He said he was concerned about research suggesting that the drug may be harmful to health.

Government critics say the real reason is the expense.

And Glaxo Wellcome, the company that makes AZT, later issued a statement saying Nr Mbeki was "misinformed".

Castrating rapists?

The president's announcement comes just a day after Deputy President Jacob Zuma said the government was considering the possibility of punishing rapists who repeatedly offend by chemically castrating them.

He told MPs that the government was committed to removing the threat posed to society by those who repeatedly committed sexual offences.

The South African Law Commission is currently studying the human rights implications and feasibility of chemical castration, and would make recommendations, he added.

Chemical castration, involving the injection of drugs that suppress the production of male hormones, has already been used on sex offenders in the United States.

Women's organisations and crime experts have appeared unimpressed at the proposed move, saying it would not deter rapists.



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