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Voices

SA government should address crime, not travel warnings

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Michele Engelberg, Johannesburg

Wikipedia says, “In South Africa, rape is so common, it barely makes the news. The rapes of elderly women and babies are outlined in four-line stories on the inside pages of local newspapers, but most sexual assaults get no public attention.”

South Africa also comes third internationally in terms of general crime levels. Clearly, we have a BIG problem!

Israel’s rape rates are substantially lower. So, when two female Israeli tourists were raped while on holiday recently in South Africa, it’s understandable that this would send shock waves between Israel’s foreign ministry and South Africa’s tourism ministry.

Rape is so reprehensible in Israel that last year, when a terrorist admitted to raping and murdering teenager Ori Ansbacher, the death penalty was called for by the public, whereas the penalty for terrorism is only imprisonment (Israel has not executed anyone since Eichmann in 1962). As horrible as terrorism is, this crime seemed to be more “personal” because she was raped and murdered.

Hlengiwe Nhlabathi of the SA tourism ministry criticised Israel for issuing a travel advisory warning tourists about crime in South Africa, (although Israel wasn’t the only country to issue an advisory). Although most of the advice was common sense, it’s helpful to remind tourists travelling anywhere that they should be more vigilant because tourists are generally easier targets simply because they stand out and aren’t familiar with where they are.

That being said, it’s highly disturbing that Nhlabathi would prioritise that these advisories “continuously cast the country in a bad light”.

What they should be prioritising is decreasing the amount of rape in this country! The government should put more resources into more policing and efficient courts to give tougher sentences for rapists to send a message that rape is wrong. Hopefully, the culture will change, which will improve other woes endemic in South Africa.

News sources report that according to the United Nations, “a woman or girl is raped every 26 seconds in South Africa, and violence against women is an almost accepted social phenomenon”.

Last year, there were several publicised cases of young women being raped and brutally murdered in Cape Town and Limpopo. This sparked a women’s march in Cape Town and Sandton to demand more government support to combat rape in South Africa. A telling poster held by one woman said: “In my country, I am more likely to be raped than to find a job.”

This is what the government should be concerned about fixing. The priority should not be the travel advisories of other countries. If the South African government fixed the high rape and crime rate in this country, there would be no need for other countries to issue travel advisories.

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