South African shock as alleged rape victim charged

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South African rights groups have expressed shock at a decision to charge a 15-year-old alleged gang-rape victim with having underage sex.

The girl was charged with statutory rape along with her alleged rapists, who are aged 14 and 16.

The alleged rape happened earlier this month in a school east of Johannesburg in front of other pupils who filmed the incident on their phones.

Prosecutors said rape charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence.

However, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it had decided all three could be charged under South Africa's Sexual Offences Act, which outlaws consensual sex with a minor.

The Children's Right Project, a legal advice group at the Western Cape University, said taking the matter to trial would not serve the girl's interests.

Rape In South Africa

  • South Africa has the highest incidence of rape amongst Interpol states
  • 1 in 4 men admit to rape
  • Nearly 150 women are raped every day
  • More than 54,000 cases of rape were reported in 2006

Based on reports by the Medical Research Council, Interpol

"There are other ways to handle to matter, the prosecutors are sending a horrific and harmful message to other rape survivors. That causes great concern," the group's Lorenzo Wakefield told BBC News.

Other groups have accused the NPA of failing the 15-year-old school girl, who was reported to have been drugged with a spiked drink before the alleged rape.

"We do feel that this is further brutalization," South Africa's Eye Witness News quotes Lynne Cawood from Childline South Africa as saying.

"Secondly, traumatization of a child who is incredibly vulnerable," she said.

South Africa has one of the highest incidences of rape in the world.

One woman is raped every 17 seconds, child rights groups say.

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