South African Chief Justice candidate slammed for views on gender violence
Summary of story from Mail&Guardian, August 26, 2011
The suitability of candidate Mogoeng Mogoeng for the position of Chief Justice in South Africa has been brought into question after his views on violence against women were severely criticised.
During his time as a High Court Judge, Mogoeng’s judgements in two cases of marital rape took a soft line, sympathetic to the man accused of rape.
His outlook has prompted civil society groups to lodge an objection to his appointment, seeing his views as contrary to the country’s liberal democratic constitution.
In one case which came before Mogoeng it was proven that a man had “throttled his wife” and pinned her down to rape her before she fought back and escaped to a neighbour’s home.
Mogoeng’s judgement read: “no real harm or injuries resulted from the throttling”. He noted that the victim was: “clad in panties and a nightdress” and that for the husband:
“The desire to make love to his wife must have overwhelmed him, hence his somewhat violent behaviour”. Mogoeng believed imprisonment to be “inappropriate” in this case.
In another instance, Mogoeng reduced the sentence for a man who raped his pregnant wife in front of someone else from ten years to five, on the grounds that:
“the nature of the complainant and appellant’s relationship is such that it renders their intercourse incapable of being legally categorised as rape”.
This showed a lack of familiarity with the law ,which is somewhat worrying for a judge as well as being morally reprehensible. Marital rape had been deemed illegal in South Africa since the Family Violence Act of 1993.
In another horrific gender violence case, a man tied his girlfriend to the back of a car and dragged her along a gravel road for 50 metres.
Mogoeng found that the complainant had “provoked” the defendant and ruled that the two year custodial sentence was “too severe” and offered the option of a fine.
On the basis of cases such as these, public interest law organisation Section 27 were due to lodge an objection today (Friday) which states that: “Judge Mogoeng’s arguments are not befitting a judicial officer, let alone one who occupies a seat on the constitutional court”.
As the submission also says: “all forms of violence against women are serious crimes with devastating physical and psychological consequences”.
The submission and Mogoeng’s application for Chief Justice – nominated by President Jacob Zuma – can be read here.