South African Officials Drop Charges Against Six Men Accused of Raping Nine-Month-Old Girl, Cite Lack of DNA Evidence
South African officials on Thursday dropped charges against six men accused of raping a nine-month-old girl because of insufficient DNA evidence, Reuters/Boston Globe reports. "We have decided not to prosecute the accused because there is no evidence against them. The DNA tests which were conducted exclude the participation of all the accused," Lungi Mahlati, director of public prosecutions in the Northern Cape province, said (Ntingi, Reuters/Boston Globe, 1/18). Authorities had said earlier that they believed only one of the six men attacked the infant (Swarns, New York Times, 1/18). The baby, called Tshepang ("Have Hope") to protect her identity, was raped in October at her home after her 16-year-old mother left her with a friend. The infant has had to undergo a series of reconstructive surgeries.
'Shocked' by the Decision
Anti-rape advocates and the opposition Democratic Alliance party "expressed shock" at the announcement, but asked South Africans to "respect the rule of law and accept the men back" since the charges against them were dropped. However, the Democratic Alliance questioned the validity of the forensic evidence. "If these six men didn't rape [the baby], who did? The question should also be asked whether the forensic investigation was correctly completed," the D.A. said in a statement. The Cape Town-based Rape Crisis also urged an appeal, asking why "witnesses who were around" were not called to testify. "It doesn't bode very well for the justice system in South Africa," Leslie Liddell, the group's director, said. South African police received 21,000 reports of child rape last year, most perpetrated by relatives. Some anti-rape workers believe that the rapes are "fueled" by the myth that sex with a virgin can protect against or cure a man of AIDS. One in nine South Africans is infected with HIV (Reuters/Boston Globe, 1/18).