The thin edge of the wedge

According to Cosatu’s Western Cape gender committee, men charged with rape should be regarded as guilty until proven innocent and they have demanded that the law be changed to reflect this.

I wonder how charitably the president of Cosatu (the unfortunately named Willy Madisha) would feel towards the gender committee if their proposal was written into the statute books and someone with an axe to grind chose to lay a charge against him.

Without doubt, the rape statistics for South Africa are gut-wrenchingly shocking, but “guilty until proven innocent” on the basis of an accusation alone? This is obviously based on the ‘no smoke without fire’ principle, but clearly the brain that the committee normally use to do their collective thinking was in the shop for repairs when they came up with that little gem. Surely any solution to a social problem as serious as rape is going to require at least a light dusting of intelligent thought to be workable?

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21 thoughts on “The thin edge of the wedge

  1. Ok, so here’s a question from the other side. (Although, please note, I do not agree with the argument ‘guilty until proven innocent’.

    However…. Is the default answer ‘yes’? If you don’t specifically say ‘NO’, is the presumed answer ‘yes’?

    I found that the hardest part to digest. When Zuma’s lawyer interrogated the complainant, he went on and on about how she didn’t say NO specifically. Her argument is that she froze in fear, she couldn’t speak; his line of questioning seemed to imply that in the absence of a specific ‘NO’, the natural assumption was/is ‘yes’.

    Now I am not a bra-burning feminist, not by any stretch of the imagination, but this just didn’t go down well with me.

    What’s your take on this, dear KN?

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  2. Katt: I have no problem with the principle of having to prove innocence when the basis of the charge is that the accused was caught in flagrante delicto. When the same principle is applied to a charge that can (effectively) be based on one person’s word against another, I find that extremely troubling.

    Tertia: I don’t buy the “absence of refusal = assent” argument either. The point I’m trying to make here is that this utterly mindless proposal of Cosatu’s is open to abuse.

    Let’s say someone is annoyed at your husband for whatever reason and decides to accuse him of rape – simply out of malice. Even though it’s a complete fabrication, hubby will have cough up a fortune in legal fees and may very well sit in a cell until he can prove that he’s actually innocent.

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  3. This makes me wonder: do you have capital punishment in SA? The margin for error in that one is just too large for my comprehension so I often wonder how many countries in the world still actually practice it.

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  4. Kyk, you do have a point, a very valid one. I support your point of view 100% as well as Andrea is 100% on the button too – the margin for error is sickening.

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  5. I think ít should actually be taken completely the other way.

    Men accused of rape should not only be presumed innocent until proven guilty, it should also be illegal to publish their names or anything about them.

    Mud sticks and even if found not guilty, the guy’s life is effectively ruined.

    If they’re found guilty; sure, every last shred of dignity should be ripped from them, but let’s not jump the gun here…

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  6. Guilty until proved innocent strikes me as a very strange idea in most situations…. though the world has become a strange place and it seems to have become fine in this country (uk) to want to lock people up without a trial just because they might be a terrorist – I can’t think of anything that would make me want to become a terrorist – unless of course it was being locked up without a trial…

    The problem with rape in general is that it can all too easily become a “my word against your word” accusation even when it is real… maybe we’ll get to the point where everyone signs a consent form (with witnesses) before having sex… though that could be a mite difficult to arrange at times… 😉

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  7. The UK law regarding terrorism is based on the principle that while freed on bail or after questioning, it is likely that the terrorist will carry out the act as he knows he will have no further chance after trial.

    Whatever the implications for human rights of the suspect, it is protecting the innocent members of the general public – which is surely what laws are meant to do.

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  8. i agree kn, it’s hard to let the “innocent until proven guilty” thing remain as is when someone is caught red-handed… but “guilty until proven innocent” would definitely complicate things- and until you’re in a situation where you wish the law was on your side- it’s very easy to point fingers…

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  9. andrea: Capital punishment was done away with in South Africa several years ago, but “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY” is quite a big selling point for certain political parties. With regard to how many countries practice capital punishment, I would say zero – they don’t need to practice, because they’ve pretty much got it sorted.

    Katt: Especially for the recipient.

    Flo: I think that the media should be kept away from rape trials altogether.

    Caroline: It’s a short step away from “Just kill them all and let God sort them out”.

    Flo: Of course, not forgetting that in theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

    angel: The question is, where do you draw the line?

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  10. Yes, some people get away with murder last year a Perlemoen Poacher got loose for killing a prostitute everybody knew he did do it but based on evidence, there was not enough to confict him to the murder. I SAY HANG THE BUGGERS, just think about it we as tax payers must still feed the buggers. Sickening!!!!

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  11. I don’t think than even an iota of intelligent thought went into formulating this one.
    They have not thought of the implications and what profound effect it would have on ppl’s lives and their dignity if the “presumed guilty” are later found to be innocent.
    SA’s rape statistics are frightening, and something should be done about it, but a knee-jerk reaction to a very large and complicated problem raises more issues than it solves.

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  12. don’t worry about it. could never become law – unconstitutional in a number of respects.

    Bizarre that Cosatu, who’ve been yelling loudest that Zuma is innocent until proven guilty, come out with this. I suspect that it’s a means for the gender committee to send a message to the guys at the top that the whole organisation is not happy with the 100% Zuma policy, rather than a serious policy initiative.

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  13. Personally, my take on this is merely thus:

    “guilty until proven innocent” UTTER BOLLOCKS!

    That said… having been sexually abused and raped as a child… I say… May the punishment fit the crime! A man who doesnt know how to use it for consential pleasure…doesnt deserve to have use of it at all.

    Even a child learns that if he doesnt play nice with his toys…they will be removed.

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  14. Without DNA evidence how does one prove it? I think they should start a DNA database like they have here in the states- as soon as one of these animals hurt a woman they get zapped, newtered and sent to prison.

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  15. As duke says, I doubt that anything will come of it apart from some sensational headlines as the presumption of innocence is a fundamental right in most (all?) modern democracies. The SA constitution would never allow anything like that to come into law.

    But, it beggars belief that there are spokespeople for respecatble organisations coming out with that sort of statement, no matter what the circumstances are that prompted it.

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  16. Look, I’m not a feminist or anything but the solution is blatantly simple: All men should have their little wee-wees chopped off. Problem solved. Leave the rest to artificial insem.

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  17. whatalotoffun: Where do I even start?

    Chitty: Exactly my point.

    duke: I also doubt it would ever be accepted, but I despair that it should even be suggested.

    Yades: Makes sense.

    Tammy: Our legal system is in shambles at the moment and needs a serious overhaul.

    Nomad: Must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Lyn: Yup. Simple, practical and effective – and dildo sales would go through the roof.

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  18. That’s ridiculous. Really. People accuse people of things they haven’t done. It’s sad, but it happens. Especially with rape because it can be so difficult to prove one way or another.

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  19. Intelligent thought? From Cosatu? Nay, I jest!

    However, I wonder what JZ will have to say to little Willie on this matter.

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