System fails rape victims

DEPUTY Public Works Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu has won support from certain quarters for her naming and shaming of the man she says raped and impregnated her 20 years ago.

DEPUTY Public Works Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu has won support from certain quarters for her naming and shaming of the man she says raped and impregnated her 20 years ago.

She has equally attracted criticism from those who believe that by naming the man, when there is no criminal investigation or trial pending, she violated his rights of being assumed innocent.

But take a moment and put aside the argument over whether she should or should not have.

Bogopane-Zulu's case underlies a disturbing discourse. She says the police refused to take her case even in the new dispensation and that she could not claim maintenance from this man because she could not afford to pay for a paternity test.

If these allegations are all true, let us spare a thought for the average South African woman who has neither her power nor influence.

If the legal system can fail a sitting deputy minister justice, what about the ordinary woman in the street?

If Bogopane-Zulu can be shunted from pillar to post, is it a great wonder that South African women choose not to use the system to report rape or make attempts to get their deadbeat partners to contribute to the welfare of their children?

If there is anything we should take away from Bogopane-Zulu's story it is that we have a criminal-justice system that is so tremendously biased against women that not even access to power and influence can spare them from it continuing to rape them long after their perpetrators have stopped.

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