The world is captivated by the grisly death of South American model Reeva Steenkamps, who was fatally shot on Valentines Day by her boyfriend, Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius. She was beautiful, he was a national hero, and the debate rages as to whether Pistorius mistook Steenkamps for a burglar, as he claims, or whether prosecutors can prove the shooting was a result of domestic violence.
Regardless of this high-profile case, violence against women is common in South Africa. Slog tipper Kate brought my attention to another, very clear and deliberate act of rape and mutilation against a poor South African teenager—the details of which are hauntingly familiar—that isn't getting as much press as it should:
At about 4am on February 2, a security guard found [17-year-old Anene] Booysen with parts of her intestines next to her in the dirt at a construction site. She had been gang raped and died about six hours later in hospital – after identifying one of her attackers. Two men, Jonathan Davids (23), who is reported to be Booysen’s ex-boyfriend and a family friend, and Johannes Kana (21), appeared in the Bredasdorp Magistrate’s Court this week on charges of rape and murder.
... If the South African reaction to Booysen’s rape and murder is anything to go by, water and lights still take precedence over the safety of women and children. The question is: Why?
A New York Times editorial yesterday hypothesized that these twin deaths—Steenkamps's and Booysen's—are finally pricking public consciousness about the country's problems with misogyny and violence against women:
Violence against women and girls is rampant here. Just two weeks before Ms. Steenkamp was shot, South Africa woke up to news of the death of 17-year-old Anene Booysen, a poor black girl who had been raped, disemboweled and left to die on a construction site in a small town on the country’s south coast. Experts say that a woman is raped every four minutes in South Africa. Many die at the hands of partners, siblings and friends. The gruesome rape and murder of the 17-year-old Ms. Booysen, a foster child, was framed by some, including the editor of a major newspaper, as a story of what happens when poverty and absent biological parents reduce one’s chances of living a flourishing life.
But the Pistorius case tells us that brutal violence against women is an equal-opportunity affliction in South Africa; it has no respect for whether its victims are rich or poor, black or white, suburban or rural. Our society is drenched in violence. A woman is safe in neither a shack nor a mansion.