Hundreds of protesters gathered Tuesday outside a South African court, where a man accused of raping a 7-year-old girl in a restaurant appeared for a bail hearing, activists and officials told CNN.
Carrying placards with messages such as, “No bail for rape and murder,” “Don’t hurt us” and “Do not rape our sister,” the demonstrators gathered outside the Pretoria Magistrate Court, where the suspect appeared for the second time in connection with the charges.
Dozens of bikers, some waving South Africa’s national flag, also rode around the court premises shouting, “No bail!”
The 20-year-old man, who has not been named publicly, was denied bail and will remain in custody pending further investigation, the South African Police Service tweeted. His next hearing is November 1.
The accused has been charged with rape and drug possession, police have said. He has not entered a plea, South African Police Service spokesman Lt. Lungelo Dlamini told CNN on Tuesday.
The man was arrested September 22, the date of the alleged crime, in Pretoria at Dros, a restaurant popular with families. He allegedly followed the girl to the restroom, grabbed her and raped her in the men’s bathroom, according to police and local news reports.
‘We need life sentences’
The incident is the latest in a recent string of rape cases that have sparked anger and outrage in South Africa. Women and children’s rights activists gathered Tuesday outside the court also demanded more stringent penalties for rape offenders nationwide.
South Africa’s justice system must demonstrate “zero-tolerance” when prosecuting cases of sexual violence, especially those perpetrated against children, said Vincentia Dlamini, director of Johannesburg-based Women and Men Against Child Abuse. She and the police spokesman are not related, he said.
“We need life sentences, and those accused should not be given parole,” Dlamini told CNN. “The justice system should protect the victim because not every child raped in South Africa will have the whole country protesting for justice in their case.”
Last month, a 17-year-old girl who had just given birth at a hospital reportedly was raped by a man posing as a doctor. The incident happened at a hospital in the Eastern Cape province, authorities said.
In August, 23-year-old university student took her own life two months after she reported that another student raped her on campus.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence against women are pervasive problems in South Africa, government statistics show. An estimated 138 of every 100,000 women in the country were raped in 2016 and 2017, data released in June by the national statistical service show.