South African children aged 12 to 17 are more likely to be raped than people of any other age, in a country where the incidence of rape is among the world's highest, a minister said.
Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana said the finding was based on a study of people who sought help from public Thuthuzela rape survivor centres around the country.
"The group of children between the ages of 12 and 17 years are emerging as the most vulnerable group, constituting the majority - about 15 000 - of the people visiting these centres," said Xingwana.
More than 34 000 victims visited the centres during the three years reviewed, she said.
Most rape cases in SA not reported
Several studies have shown that South Africa has one of the worst rape problems in the world.
Doctors Without Borders found that a woman is violated every 26 seconds, a figure matched only by countries at war.
A 2009 study by the government's Medical Research Council (MRC) revealed that more than one quarter of South African men admitted to raping a woman or girl, with 9.8% forcing themselves on a victim for the first time before the age of 10.
Most cases go unreported and the perpetrators are often known to the victim.
The MRC study found that only one in 25 rapes were reported to the police and one in five confessed rapists tested positive for HIV.
The acts of sexual violence are associated with criminal activity and domestic violence. - (Sapa, March 2011)
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