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Children in South African township
Science and Health:
Why the Children?
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Page 2

Jamila Paksima
Jamila Paksima

Photo Essay
How does this rape epidemic effect the families of victims?

Well the mothers, fathers and grandmothers are very frightened for their children. There is something different about the ones that come for help. There is no real benefit for them to come forward. They have to walk back down that same street where the abuse started. Most likely they face will perpetrators that won't be arrested. They could see him every day.

One prosecutor I met has five rape cases a day, in addition to everything else he has on his docket. The system is just overloaded and underfunded. Every time you make progress you hit another barrier. There are 20 new courts set up for sexual assault cases, and those have in camera rooms for children to testify in private. That's a great step forward. Now the prosecutions have to follow.

Every facet of society needs to demand justice and equal access to medicine. Most of the time people don't come forward — it can often take two years before cases come to trial and sometimes the victims are already too sick from HIV-related illnesses to testify and sometimes the memories of a 3 to 5 year old will have faded.

What can be done to help?

It's hard. You can't just put posters up and expect the world to turn around. You can't just hand out condoms and expect the epidemic to stop. I didn't even realize that sometimes the message won't get though in the countryside. Someone told me some people seeing a poster reading "Real Men Don't Rape" wouldn't even know the word "don't" means. The kind of campaign can backfire. Someone said: "You'd have to bring the whole village under the poster and explain it."

There are great places like the Teddy Bear Clinic in Johannesburg and Soweto, which offer medical services, counseling and family support. There are other groups like Childline, who are working both with perpetrators and victims. They have a hotline for children who need help. They, and groups like GRIP, seen in this story, go into the schools and communities to make the problem known and offer answers.

There is no magic wand, but the good thing is that the Deputy President Zuma has come out and called for a moral regeneration of society. He's called for all groups to come together, family, sangomas, clergy — to deal with the problem. The only way you can stop it is with the truth.

I really believed in the story. I had to do it. It had to be told.

How could you find the strength to tell this story?

I spent a lot of time at an amazing orphanage called Acres of Love. That helped me get through it because there were babies there being loved and taken care of. It was like a home. It let me laugh and kept me optimistic.

Why did it take so long for this story to break?

I think that for a few years after apartheid ended there was a golden era and no one wanted to hear anything bad or feel anything bad about South Africa. There was a lot of emphasis on reconciliation instead of war. There is a lot of work to be done yet. There is still a lot of anger to get out. These are still ripple effects from the old system. It has only been seven or eight years.

What do you want viewers to take away from your piece?

I don't want people to think less of South Africa. They are dealing with a lot. They need help, not judgment — as do all the countries that are coping with this horrible epidemic. We all just need to help each other get through it. This is everybody's war.

Transcript Find out more about 9-year-old Rachel.
Read more from a  South African Town Hall Meeting
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