THE BLOG
02/20/2013 06:07 pm ET Updated Apr 22, 2013

Story that Repeats a Billion Times Worldwide

THE MAN HAS earned two big pictures on The New York Times' front page ... the lead-story position on the BBC's World Service, persistently ... not to mention endless acres of tabloid coverage in print, on TV and online.

Such is the fate of the once-gloried Olympian Oscar Pistorius, the extraordinary 'cross-over' athlete both disabled and able-bodied, since killing his girl-friend Reeva Steenkamp.

The world's media are having and will continue to have an extended field-day with this resonant story from South Africa that exhibits so many disturbing layers.

I was just in South Africa (happening to departing on the day this story broke, and catching up with it on landing in New York) and despite several decades of covering that country, I've rarely seen an event there capture international media reaction quite so feverishly.

Of course the story's resonancies echo across a whole range of issues. Many white South African homes customarily house firearms; American audiences have registered a pang of recognition with this domestic fatal shooting by a man who kept three shotguns, a rifle and two handguns at home. And the reported presence (though on-again, off-again) of testosterone steroids in the sports-star's bedroom has stirred folk-memories of Nicole Brown's 1994 death by stabbing, and the criminal acquittal of - but civil judgment against - O. J. Simpson.

Immersed as I was for a while in South Africa's own journalistic waters, I was struck by how the Pistorius story in effect crested a huge wave of scrutiny for an entirely different violent death, one which had already gripped the public mind and caused enormous soul-searching.

It was the gang-rape and killing of a seventeen-year old girl, Anene Booysens, who was found appallingly injured in a small town construction site not far from Cape Town and died several hours later in a local hospital.

This horrific story had in turn come on the heels of worldwide revulsion over the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year old student in New Delhi, India; judging by its coverage in Cape Town it deeply affected South Africans as they considered their own high incidence of sexual violence against women, including two other high-profile gang-rapes last year. As far too often, such highlighted cases exemplify a broad and horrible reality. Nationally, police reports have been recording more than 64,000 gang-rapes a year - more than seven an hour.

Perhaps the most pungent piece of media work on the subject has now come from one of the nation's best columnists, the aptly-named Justice Malala in The Times of Johannesburg. Malala is always a powerful read, but in this week's writing he is distinguished by a cutting-to-the-core quality that's unmatched in his previous output:

"It's no longer time to just talk. It's time to act, urgently. It's time to talk and do something about men - about how we make them, groom them and send them out into the world to rape and kill women."

A headline rightly labelst Malala as commenting "Beyond Pistorius" and he accuses his home country of being "at war with its women", while saluting the women who have picketed "against the high rate of femicide in South Africa" outside the Pistorius courthouse.

He's rightly concerned about his own country, but Malala might also have mentioned the US House of Representatives and its needing to be cajoled by President Barack Obama into passing the Violence Against Women Act.

For the global dimension cannot be forgotten. The United Nations' official assessment, after all, is that one in three women in the world, or roughly 1 billion, suffers violence at the hands of men at least once in the course of her lifetime.

How many other countries, Malala must make us reflect, are in need of such an "act urgently" clarion call?