Crime is occurring at an unprecedented rate and South Africa now boasts some of the highest rates of violent crime in the world (De Capua & Robertson 2009). Yet, one of the most pressing social issues to emerge is the sexual violence of children. Child rape is occurring at unprecedented proportions resulting not only in the trauma of children but in the increase of HIV/AIDS infections. The South African legal system is struggling to cope with the number of child rape cases and many children's rights advocates argue that the system is flawed in its handling of sexual abuse victims, in particular children. This paper seeks to examine the issues surrounding child rape in South Africa including the role of the legal system in combating this issue.
Apartheid emerged in 1948 and was a legalized system of segregation separating the white Boer minority from the Black, mixed-race and Indian majority (South African Government Information 2008). It was a complex set of laws that resulted in the oppression and marginalization of all non-whites in South Africa. Apartheid was brutally enforced by the white minority and state-sponsored violence was commonly used to maintain order and suppresses social uprisings. With the end of Apartheid in 1994, this legacy of social and economic inequality has remained resulting in extremely high levels of violence of which women and children are often victims (Human Rights Watch 2001). Due to social inequality, women and girls are often the most vulnerable victims of violence, in particular, gender-based violence such as rape and sexual abuse (Human Rights Watch 2001).
Apartheid was deeply entrenched in South African society and it continues to impact the political, social and economic conditions of the country. Schools, in particular, have felt the brunt of the pervasive violence that has wrecked havoc on the country and its people. According to Human Rights Watch, "the South African education system today is still scarred by the racially discriminatory policies of apartheid and in particular the system of 'Bantu Education' imposed by the National Party government" (2001). During the period of resistance, where freedom fighters waged war against the oppressive Apartheid system, "schools were often transformed into sites of political struggle and frequently become violent spaces" (Human Rights Watch 2001). Since the dismantling of Apartheid, the government has struggled to compensate for the lack of professional teachers.