What happens when a 29-year-old man rapes his 14-year-old cousin, is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, and then argues during his appeal at the Limpopo high court that “the said rape cannot be described as falling into the worst rape cases”, therefore, he shouldn’t be in jail all his life?
What happens when a Cape Town man is found with 18 644 photographs and videos of babies, toddlers and teenagers being raped, sexually abused, and bonded?
The man admitted to spending at least 8 hours a day watching and downloading child porn, but stated that “he knows that he is supposed to feel bad, but he does not”.
Months ago, his 15-year jail sentence was reduced to 10 years after he argued on appeal that “possession” is the least serious of the categories of sexual offences.
What happens when a 13-year-old girl walking from church in the evening, bumps into her teenage ex-boyfriend and agrees to stop by his house only to be allegedly gang-raped by the ex and his friends?
During cross-examination the girl was asked many questions, including why she agreed to go to the boy’s house, why she did not scream during the rape; to which she explained that another boy was standing next to the bed with a knife.
She testified that she was raped again by one of the boys as he walked her home. Asked in court why she did not fight, her response was “I was tired”.
She didn’t immediately tell her parents about what happened because they had warned her many times not to walk alone at night.
The boys were sentenced to five years in prison, with the fact that they were minors taken into consideration.
However, three weeks ago, the Limpopo High Court set aside the convictions and sentence imposed on the boys.
The judge stated that he agreed with the defence’s submission that the girl was not raped, that in fact, she only accused the boys because she was ashamed of her behaviour and that the whole neighbourhood had heard of the incident.
“She simply did not want her friends and her mother to know the truth,” the judgment reads.
The fact is, in all these cases that happened right on our doorstep, none of the perpetrators believe they should be punished for what they did.
Something as little as a technicality, a victim mixing up dates or being too traumatised to testify in court can turn into a failure to prove beyond “reasonable doubt” that they were raped.
So now, what happens in a country where a convicted rapist believes there are levels of rape, that some rapes are sweeter than others?
In a country where a man who spends eight hours being aroused by babies being raped feels comfortable standing up in court and saying he does not feel bad about it and is sent to jail for only 10 years, and will definitely be back home before those babies are adults?
A total failure of a system that is supposed to protect. When it comes to rape, South Africans have long lost trust in the justice system, and so they go for digital mob justice.
Last weekend, the country woke up to a screaming newspaper headline: “Sjava raped me”.
The accusation by his ex-girlfriend, singer Lady Zamar, came just as the pictures and videos of Sjava’s highly successful concert in Durban were trending on social media.
A case has been opened, the National Prosecuting Authority is deciding whether to prosecute or not.
But if anything, this whole debacle has exposed how a woman claiming to be raped is always treated with doubt and suspicion of malice by men and women in this country.
At this point, nobody can confirm that Sjava is not a rapist and nobody can confirm that Lady Zamar is not lying about being raped.
Anything said, whether it is anti-Lady Zamar or pro-Sjava, or visa versa, means nothing until there is a trial and a verdict.
But that doesn’t matter, does it?
Lady Zamar has already been labelled a bitter ex by some, and Sjava has already been labelled a rapist by others.
What has been most shocking is how, among 49 million people in a country that’s been declared the world’s rape capital, the narrative seemed to be influenced by “who you like more” between the two.
“Why did she keep quiet for all these years? She continued dating him and sleeping with him after the alleged rape,” one side said.
“I believe Lady Zamar,” another side said.
And so the rape discussion, which happens more often in this country than anywhere else in the world because every other week there are new cases, some that never reach the public, began.
The discussion has been marred with everything from toxic masculinity, rape apologists, entitlement to women’s bodies, ignorance and the age-old culture of seeing women as nothing but walking vaginas creeping up on social media.
“How is it rape when you are dating and have sex often?” a man asked.
“Me dating you doesn’t mean I have to sleep with you if I don’t want to,” a woman responded.
On these social media streets, I’ve seen people quoting the bible to justify spousal rape. I’ve seen people asking how a man who paid lobola can be denied sex.
It’s always disturbing but never shocking because, with beliefs like that, no wonder women live in fear every day.
But the comments on this Sjava and Lady Zamar case have been the worst.
They have demonstrated how South Africa has maintained the world’s rape capital title for years.
Some women have lied about being raped, that’s no secret.
But more rapists have walked free because the onus is usually on the victims to prove that they didn’t want it or that they didn’t put themselves in a position where the “poor” man assumed they wanted it, because they kissed and touched, causing him to have an erection.
When a man thinks raping his girl cousin isn’t the worst thing to do, that’s a problem.
When a paedophile believes his hands are clean because he watched and didn’t touch, that’s a problem.
When a girl is warned not to walk alone at night because she might be raped, and that fact forms part of a court trial, it’s a problem.
When people can think not reporting rape immediately after it happened amounts to “reasonable doubt”, that’s a problem. Anyone who has ever been raped knows that the feeling is the same, whether it is ten years or two days after it happened.
Rape is a violent crime, it leaves the victim alive physically, but dead inside. It’s not about sex, it’s about violence.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media>chaosafrica