School exam question about baby rape angers South Africans

Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:39am EST
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By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A South African school exam that asked drama students how they would stage a scene about the rape of a baby was condemned on Wednesday as a crass attempt to address some of the world's worst levels of sexual violence.

In the nationwide exam sat this week, thousands of students aged around 17 were posed questions about the critically acclaimed play "Tshepang", based on the real-life 2001 rape of an infant by her mother's boyfriend.

Public outrage over the Tshepang incident and many other well publicized instances of sexual violence against women and children has done little to ease a problem endemic in South Africa, which has one of highest rape rates in the world.

In 2012 nearly 65,000 sexual crimes were reported in the nation of 53 million and last month lynch mobs roamed a Johannesburg township after the rape and murder of two toddlers aged two and three.

The drama students were presented with a line of stage directions from the play, by Lara Foot Newton, in which a male narrator describes a rural community's descent into alcoholism, prostitution and sexual exploitation.

"He acts out the rape, using the broomstick and the loaf of bread," the stage directions say. The exam question then asks students to say how they would get the actor to portray it "to maximize the horror".

The question stunned many students.

"When I read the question I was in shock," said 18-year-old student Caitlin Wiggil in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth.   Continued...