JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Seven young men appeared in a South African court on Thursday to face charges of gang-raping a mentally handicapped teenage girl and recording the act on a cell-phone video that then went viral.
The case touched a raw nerve in a country where an average of 181 people a day are raped or sexually assaulted.
The accused range in age from 14 to 20 and are suspected of holding the girl as a sex slave in a Soweto township residence, filming the rapes with a mobile phone and offering her coins to keep quiet.
The 17-year-old girl, who went missing a few weeks ago, was found by police on Wednesday in the home of a 37-year-old man, who has also been arrested. Police have not revealed the identities of any involved due to the nature of the crime.
The hearing was postponed and will resume next week, but the case has set off a wave of soul searching.
In a front page editorial, the Star newspaper, one of South Africa's biggest-circulation dailies, described the incident is "Our Disgrace". Government spokesman Jimmy Manyi branded it a "barbaric act".
Successive governments have pledged to cut crime, putting more police on the street and launching high profile campaigns that have done little to reduce the violence.
Massive unemployment, poverty, easy access to weapons and the lingering effects of the racial oppression of apartheid have been cited by as reasons for the persistently high levels of violent crime.
"We come from a history of violence, where people have lived and grown up using violence in order to get what they want, to settle conflicts," said gender activist Lisa Vette.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Reuters Television; Editing by Ed Cropley)