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UN rights chief urged comprehensive approach to sexual violence in South Africa

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] expressed shock and sadness [press release] on Friday concerning the brutal rape and murder [Reuters report] of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in South Africa. Pillay urged South Africa to take a stronger approach to prevent the ongoing sexual violence incidents against tens of thousands of South African women every year. On February 2, Booysen was raped and mutilated in Bredasdorp, and although she survived the attack, she died the following day from her injuries. Pillay acknowledged the strong reactions from President Jacob Zuma [official profile], other political actors, NGOs and trade unions, but expressed dismay at low rates of arrest and conviction for the crime of rape in the country. Pillay noted that South Africa has the highest rates of rape reported to the police anywhere in the world, and encouraged the government to take steps to both to strengthen legal responses to crimes of rape and to address the "root causes" of sexual violence in the country. She stressed that sexual violence is a concern [UN News Centre report] not only for women, but also for men, and urged men to actively participate in stopping gender-based violence and discrimination in South Africa.

Pillay has recently been addressing issues of sexual violence throughout the world. Earlier this month, Pillay urged the government of Somalia to reopen the case [press release] of a reporter and an alleged rape-victim who were both sentenced [JURIST report] to a year in prison, and called the sentences a "serious blow to the fight against sexual violence." Pillay stressed that "sexual abuse in the camps for displaced people in Somalia is a real issue, and any effort to expose, denounce and deter these crimes should be supported" and expressed concern for the chilling effect the sentences could have on journalism in the nation. In January, Pillay praised JURIST report] a report [text, PDF], issued in response to the rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old New Delhi medical student in December, "a groundbreaking basis for action against violence against women in India." The report advocated for reform of Indian life, including political, judicial and cultural changes and changing the manner in which police and the judiciary respond to rape accusations and punishments.

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