CAPE TOWN:  19 October 2021

The Women’s Legal Centre will be appearing in the Western Cape High Court this week, Friday, 22 October 2021, to appeal an order made by the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court in which a Magistrate ordered a womxn not to talk about her rape to anyone.

The past few years have seen several womxn in South Africa publicly speak out about their experiences of sexual offences committed against them and name their perpetrators in the process. This has become a global movement in the campaign to stop violence against womxn. In South Africa, we have seen a trend of perpetrators approaching the courts to silence and gag womxn. This is apparent from our current case.

In 2015, our client was raped by her ex-boyfriend while they were still in a relationship. She spoke about this incident to close family and friends and posted about her experience in a safe online messaging group that was designed to create solidarity and support to survivors of sexual assault. Sometime after this, a screenshot of her messages was circulated without her consent, in which she speaks about her experience.

Her alleged perpetrator then approached the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court to obtain a protection from harassment order against her, in which he asked the Court to order her not to have any contact with him, not to defame him and not to harass him. The Magistrate’s Court granted the order against her and added that she was “not allowed to talk about her rape to anyone”.

The WLC is appealing this decision before the Western Cape High Court on the following basis:

  1. The order constitutes a regression in the national fight against violence against womxn and impacts on millions of womxn in South Africa.
  2. That the Domestic Violence Act and Protection from Harassment Act and Courts are designed to protect vulnerable groups such as womxn and children, and not to further harm, silence and victimize them.
  3. That a guilty verdict against an alleged perpetrator is not indicative of womxn telling the truth as we know that the criminal justice system and reporting mechanisms for rape survivors are flawed.
  4. That there is a positive obligation and duty on Courts to protect victims of sexual abuse.

Speaking before the court date, WLC attorney Chriscy Blouws said that the WLC recognises that survivors who publicly speak about their sexual abuse do so in an attempt to break the silence and stigma surrounding rape.

“They do so to create a sense of community, empowerment and solidarity among other survivors and to challenge rape culture, which for years has treated womxn with suspicion and perpetrators with impunity.”

“We hope that the Courts in making its determination in these types of matters do so by applying a gendered lens to the facts of these cases, in particular when balancing the rights of both the survivor and perpetrator.”

The matter has been set down for hearing on Friday, 22 October 2021.

The Women’s Legal Centre is an African feminist legal centre that advances womxn’s rights and equality using tools such as litigation, advocacy, education, advice, research and training.

For media enquiries, contact Ru du Toit (communications@wlce.co.za or 079 990 2494)

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