'Reporting rape equals being raped again in court'

South African rape laws still blame the survivor of rape, People Opposing Woman Abuse (Powa) said on Friday at a protest outside the Johannesburg High Court.

“When it comes to sexual violence, and rape particularly, the laws are really archaic and unjust,” said Powa’s training and public awareness manager Carrie Shelver.

Current legislation laid the burden of proof with the rape survivor to show she had not given consent.

A rape survivor’s sexual history or what she was wearing could be discussed in court to show “her word can’t be trusted,” said Shelver.

She said moves to introduce revised legislation had been going on for nine years with no clear indication of when they would proceed again.

Shelver cited a gang-rape case scheduled to resume next week as an example of how court delays defeated justice.

She said a women who had been raped by seven men had begun giving her testimony on October 2 2005. On August 16 this year she would finally complete this process.

“As long as a rape survivor has to take the stand her healing process is delayed ... every time you testify in court it takes you back again.”

Shelver said the tragedy of the case was that two of the men arrested for the rape had been released and subsequently rearrested for committing armed robbery while out on bail.

Meanwhile, the rape survivor remained in a shelter because her safety could not be guaranteed.

Shelver said while some court delays were understandable, others such as mislaid dockets were “purely errors”.

About a dozen protesters gathered outside the court a day after Women’s Day celebrations, some chained to the court fence and others with their mouths taped closed.

“Rape is living murder,” read one placard.

Another read: “Reporting rape equals being raped again in court”.

An advocate walking out of the high court said he had not yet looked at the protest but did support it.

“[Men] must support them completely,” he said.

Mandla Shangweni (41) who was walking past the protest said: “Men have a big role to play. We need to teach our fellow brothers to act in a responsible way ... forcing [oneself on] a person, at the end of the day it destroys her feelings.” - Sapa

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