Jacob Zuma Addresses South Africa's Rape Problem

The murder and rape of 17-year-old Anene Booysen was at the center of Zuma's talk.

Posted: 02/15/2013 01:21 PM EST

In the wake of the brutal rape and murder of a teen girl, South African President Jacob Zuma took the opportunity to address the country’s rape problem, calling for unity in efforts to wipe out the “scourge.”

“The brutality and cruelty meted out to defenseless women is unacceptable and has no place in our country,” Zuma said Thursday night.

On Feb. 1, the mutilated body of 17-year-old Anene Booysen was found in a construction site by a private security guard. Evidence revealed that Booysen was gang-raped, cut open, her legs broken and left for dead.

The incident shocked the conscience of South Africa and cast a sobering light on the country’s overarching problem of rape. Immediately following the tragedy, Zuma vowed to “impose the harshest sentences on such crimes, as part of a concerted campaign to end this scourge in our society.”

Rapes occur in South Africa at a rate higher than any other country in the world.

Last year, South African police documented more than 64,000 rapes, and a 2010 study showed that more than a quarter of South African men have admitted to raping a girl or woman.

In his speech, Zuma asked lawmakers to make fighting violence against women an “everyday campaign.” Despite the abysmal statistics, Zuma boasted that over 363 life sentences were handed out over the past financial year on behalf of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units.

Zuma also outlined a comprehensive plan of reform aimed at tackling violence against women and girls.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Rodger Bosch/Pool)

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