Conviction in Rape of Nine-Month-Old South African Girl Reignites Debate Over AIDS Virgin Myth
The conviction last week of a South African man in the rape of a nine-month-old girl has refocused international attention on a Southern African myth that having sex with a virgin will cure HIV/AIDS, ABCNews.com reports. The girl, called "Tshepang," meaning "have hope," was raped last October in the Northern Cape township of Louisvale. Last week, David Potse was sentenced to life in prison for the crime. Preliminary tests indicate that he is HIV-positive. Some people believe that the myth may be behind an increase in child sexual assault. "When we now arrest a person [for rape], the person will be telling us exactly the same thing -- that he thought by sleeping with a child of two to five years old will then cure the HIV/AIDS disease," Daniel Sono, a police officer with the child protection unit near Cape Town, said, noting that sexual abuse of the extremely young has risen over the past two years. About 15% of all rape victims in South Africa are under the age of 11, according to police statistics, and Reuters reports that 21,000 cases of child rape were reported to police last year. However, winning convictions is difficult, and only 9% of perpetrators are punished. "Our system gives the (perpetrator) a lot of rights. That is the right to a fair trial and that is frustrating because we have victims that are real. We have children that also have rights and their rights have been violated," police inspector Roland Rhoode said. The government has pledged to establish a task force to examine what can be done to help girls and to stem the rise in sexual violence (Seemungal, ABCNews.com, 7/31).
A video clip of the "ABC World News Tonight" segment is available in RealPlayer online (Seemungal, "ABC World News Tonight," ABCNews, 7/30).