Furore over South African exam question on baby rape

JOHANNESBURG - A test question asking drama students to direct a baby rape scene has sparked outcry in South Africa, where it is estimated someone is raped every four minutes.

The exam question asked high school students to describe - using the symbols of a broom and a loaf of bread - how a rapist would stage the assault on a nine-month old baby.

The students had to do it in such a dramatic way that would maximise the horror of the brutal act for an audience.

The question was based on an extract from the award-winning play 'Tshepang' by Lara Foot Newton, which was inspired by the 2001 horrifying rape of a nine-month-old South African child.

But students, parents and activists found the question insensitive given the high levels of rape in South Africa and that some of the students may have been victims.

Official statistics show that around 65,000 sexual offences were committed in South Africa in 2012 alone.

One student told the Times newspaper that the question made him "sick".

"I am sure someone in my class must have been traumatised."

While the question was aimed at testing the students' theatre skills, gender activist Kubi Rama found it "insensitive".

But the education ministry defended the question Wednesday in a statement saying the students were not expected to "literally describe the actual act of raping a nine-month old baby", but to work out theatrically, the best way to achieve the "horror and aversion" an audience would feel.

"It is assumed that learners are familiar with (the extract) and would have been trained to deal with their personal emotions relating to the matter," said the ministry.

The students were between 17 and 18 years of age.