On 23 August Die Son ran an article about the light sentencing for this serious offence. However, the reporter got the facts wrong. The man wasn’t sentenced two years house arrest for rape but instead for sexual assault. They were requested by the magistrate to print a correction.
The man didn’t rape his 14 year-old daughter but he did lick her vagina, over her underwear, while her mother was asleep in the same bed. This is seen as a much lighter offense, according to the magistrate, so the sentence was not as harsh.
After the assault, the man cooperated throughout and pleaded guilty to the charge. He admitted that he had made a mistake by confusing his daughter for his wife, as the three share a bed. Alcohol was said to have contributed to the assault. The prosecution accepted, and the two year house arrest sentence was handed down.
Although the two year house arrest sentence may be defensible in terms of the law, there is a nagging sense of injustice here. Perhaps it’s the fact that she was violated in her home, where she should feel safest. Perhaps it’s because this is viewed as a minor incident, despite the very dark reality of it.
Maybe it’s because incidents like this are the norm for women and girls in South Africa. In many incidents like this, the victim experiences pressure to protect the very men that violate them.
And so the offenses are repeated.
Aside from victims running the risk of repeat abuse; victimhood is often shamed in our society. While penning this column, I had to ask myself whether talking about it would make things worse for the girl who was assaulted here. Is fleshing out the details of her case the best thing for her? But what’s the alternative? Do we ignore it instead?
Over the last while we’ve seen some gripping perspectives on Women’s Month. Most honest of all being a piece by Kyla Phil entitled ‘Women’s Month – ‘insulting,’ ‘superficial,’ ‘meaningless.’ This story points out, as Kyla Phil did, that women are still routinely victimised by men, who often get off lightly.
It points out that we cannot blindly rely on justice being fair because upon consulting legal professionals, I was told that the minimum standard sentence for sexual assault of a minor is 15 years…
Regardless of what the plea agreement may have been, two years house arrest hardly meets the mark.