The men boasting about mistreating women on the Twitter thread that went viral this week can be legally, professionally and socially held accountable for their confessions, according to experts.
Twitter user @CalvinDuncan17’s tweet – “Gents what's the worst thing you've done to a lady?” – unleashed confessions of all sorts of atrocious treatment of women in their lives.
???????? o mpya— c a l v i n . (@CalvinDuncan17) November 5, 2018
Verlie Oosthuizen, head of social media law at Shepstone and Wylie law firm says the people linked to the accounts on the thread can be investigated or criminally charged for confessing these stories if their identities can be determined.
“If their identity can be ascertained from their profile, there is nothing in law that would stop an investigation into their claims or confessions,” says Verlie.
She says nothing prohibits a social media post as evidence if it has been obtained legally.
“A social media post is an example of documentary evidence that can be used in legal matters, however, as with most documentary evidence, it will usually need to be supported by oral evidence in any litigation or court case as documents are not usually relied on as the primary evidence in a case.
“Social media posts on platforms such as Twitter, in response to a public feed, will not attract privacy rights in respect of the person who has posted it as they have waived their privacy by posting in that way,” says Verlie.
After W24’s initial report, some have commented that the comments in this Twitter thread are similar to those shared via the hashtag #WasteHisTime2018, which they said was labelled as “empowering women”.
They feel that double standards are being applied. Many have countered that talking about #WasteHisTime2018 is a deflection of the real issues.
In SA and the rest of the world, there is a longstanding history of gender-based violence where an increasing number of women bear the brunt of assaults and harassment.
Marike Keller, the acting policy development and advocacy manager at Sonke Gender Justice says the comments on @CalvinDuncan17’s Twitter thread are indicative of rape culture and should be challenged.
"Rape culture can take many forms includes victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivialising of rape and a denial that it is widespread. And sexist, misogynistic and hurtful commenting online as we see in this thread only serves to reinforce men’s superiority and dominance, feeding rape culture and an acceptance that women are objects or property,” she says.
"While much important work has been done by civil society to address gender-based violence, conversations like this are a reminder of how much work is still to be done in terms of [gender-based violence ] prevention – mindsets and behaviour around gender norms need to be shifted," she says.
Marike says South Africa urgently needs more prevention strategies to address “toxic masculinities and harmful gender norms” that drive gender-based violence.
She adds that we all have a role to play in challenging this rape culture: "When abusive comments or actions go unchecked, perpetrators are given permission to do it again. It is so important to speak out about verbal abuse of any kind and to challenge this kind of behaviour by our friends, families and communities.”
Verlie said that women who have experienced the kind of treatment shared in this thread can pursue legal action as well through civil claims or even criminal claims where relevant.
“If conduct of a criminal nature has been described then they have the option of approaching the police, however there may be civil claims that are more appropriate.
“There also may be civil or criminal claims arising from the posts themselves if they have served to ridicule a woman or lower her reputation in the eyes of the public by contributing to the thread,” says Verlie.
Such behaviour of the people on this thread may potentially impact career prospects should a person be linked to such comments.
“It would be unlikely that a company would provide that as a reason however companies are increasingly relying on ‘social media audits’ to make hiring decisions. The reprehensible behaviour described by a lot of the men in this thread would certainly provide ample reason for a company to resist hiring them," she says.
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