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In South Africa, a brutal rape sparks unusual proposal

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The attack comes on the heels of the heinous murder and gang-rape of a Indian student in New Delhi, which stirred headlines here as South Africans face their own high counts of incidences of sexual violence against women, including two other high profile gang-rapes last year. South African police statistics record more than 64,000 cases a year – more than seven an hour.

Within days of the Booysens rape, a full-force debate ensued over proposals to tackle South Africa’s brutal sexual violence.

A controversial recommendation that arose in Limpopo Province would force men accused of rape to have an HIV test and charge them with attempted murder if they test positive.

Police Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, a local official of the national police force, says the proposal is allowable under existing law and necessary.

“We have seen there are a lot of repeat offenders in our province where they are continuing with these sexual attacks targeting women and children. Some of them might be carrying this virus and deliberating infecting these women,” says Mr. Malaudzi, arguing that the law that is already partly on the books, though rarely cited. 

Human rights and HIV activists have decried the proposal in Limpopo, a somewhat isolated province and not where Booysens was killed. 

“The practice further reinforces HIV related stigma, discrimination and prejudice,” says S'khumbuzo Maphumulo, an attorney for civil rights organization Section 27.

Malaudzi says that police were contemplating the new policy even before the attack on Booysens. He adds that police can only petition the courts to order an HIV test for men accused of rape and cannot carry out tests without court backing. 

“We feel that it is now proper for us to have this information in the proceedings,” says Malaudzi.

Mr. Maphumulo, however, worries that the practice would likely lead to further overall abuses, especially of those ignorant of their rights, by overzealous police.

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