Justice denied? Prosecutors and presiding officers' reliance on evidence of previous sexual history in South African rape trials

Abstract

This article presents data from a study conducted by the Medical Research Council of South Africa, focusing on rape attrition in South Africa at different stages in the processes (from reporting at a police station to potential conviction). The study found that of the 3 952 reported cases of rape analysed 65% were referred to prosecution, and trials commenced in 18,5% of cases. Of the total 3 952 cases reported, 8,6% resulted in a guilty verdict. Using qualitative data from a subset of trial transcripts, the article focuses specifically on the problematic views of both presiding officers and prosecutors based on rape myths and gender-stereotyping at trial, and suggests that these are a factor affecting the attrition rate between cases referred to trial and those that result in a not guilty verdict.

Author Biography

Sheena Swemmer, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, WITS

Head of the gender programme at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is an attorney and researcher at CALS and focuses on the intersection of gender and violence in South Africa. Sheena is also a PhD candidate at the University of Johannesburg focusing on the intersection of domestic violence and the abuse of companion animals.

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Published
2020-12-24
Section
Research articles