Thursday, 11 December 2014

South Africa: How to Get Away With Murder - Violence Against Women continues

Never forget the issue – It is Violence Against Women [UN]
Reeva Steenkamp and Anni Dewani - names of women, real people who by reason of the cases brought against their partners have been relegated to the background.
The perception is that, based on the case pursued by the prosecution against Oscar Pistorius and Shrien Dewani, these men have apparently walked off lightly from their involvement in the deaths of girlfriend and wife.
Reeva was the unfortunate victim of a killing, whether it was murder or homicide is up for discussion, Anni was the victim of a car-jacking murder in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme procured on her honeymoon by her husband. The fact is, two women are dead.
Not a crime until there is a victim
That Oscar was an irresponsible gun-nut prone to fits of rage was not in dispute and eventually we heard that Shrien was a closet hard-core homosexual who engaged in kinky sexual activity. None of this is by any means criminal, we have the right to pursue hobbies and fantasies to the limit as long as no one else comes to harm in the pursuit of such activities.
Where one this departs from the ordinary is when a man for whatever reason is terrified into thinking there is an intruder in his home and he fires 4 shots into an enclosed place unaware of who might be in there. In a cartoon, whoever might have been in the enclosed place will walk out as if the shots were just a shower of confetti, in real life, the consequence is grave, the person died, having been hit by three shots.
Where the prosecution failed
It was left to the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that this act was intentional, failing that, at least prove irresponsibility, it failed and so Oscar Pistorius literally got a slap on the wrist for gun-toting wrist action that led to the death of an innocent woman who had the misfortune of being his girlfriend.
One cannot fault the case law from the perspective of the judge, it had on the balance of probabilities with a wily lawyer gotten the man off the hook for a more serious crime. However, the state has won the right to appeal the sentencing, we just have to watch this space for the new exegesis of the Latin descriptions of criminally causing the death of another.
A soap opera like a thriller
With hindsight, having learnt of the secret life of Shrien Dewani in England, Anni Hindocha of Sweden should never have been in any kind of matrimony with her husband.
One can assume that both were caught in the strictures of being third-culture kids; parents and relations from the Indian subcontinent, they being products of English and Swedish societies having to respect traditions.
It is probably why Shrien was in the closet living a double life of lascivious homosexual and eligible bachelor, a combustible mix of circumstances with Anni as the unfortunate collateral damage.
Where the prosecution failed again
According to the prosecution, having procured a false matrimony, the pull of the other life presented Shrien with situation that having fulfilled the cultural requirements demanded of him in the marriage ceremony now could terminate a union that should not proceed beyond the honeymoon.
Anni and Shrien made from South Africa for their honeymoon and there she was killed by people her husband presumably had interesting contacts with before the carjacking. Those people were prosecuted and jailed as Shrien returned to the UK and progressively played a grieving husband, a nervous wreck, an accused, a challenger to an extradition that lasted three years, an extradition to South Africa to face justice and now a free man.
Until proven broke, it seems
We are none the wiser about how the stories the other murder told against Shrien might have come about, the prosecution again having failed to raise its argument above the bar necessary to make Shrien face the charge of murder or at least the conspiracy to commit murder.
There are two immutable facts, the women are dead and the case law to test the allegations against boyfriend and husband who were lawyered up to well that it gives life to that thing that Alan Dershowitz once said on television. "Everyone is innocent until proven broke."
Can these failings continue?
More disturbingly is whether the prosecution has the nous, skill, empathy and conviction to make a convincing case against well-heeled men who purportedly have been involved in the deaths of their partners.
One cannot really put a finger on where it has gone completely awry, but 2014 cannot be said to have advanced the movement to stop Violence Against Women with these two high-profile cases in South Africa.
Though the prosecution will have a second bite of the cherry in revisiting the judgement against Oscar Pistorius, I do not think anyone is holding their breath about a radically different outcome.
In the case of Shrien Dewani, it is unlikely anyone would step forward with a hand in marriage lest they meet a similar fate, but having being conveniently outed, he might well get on with openly being a homosexual until some twist of fate allows for Anni Dewani to get some form of justice and her family some form of closure.
In both cases, I am saddened, Violence Against Women remains an everyday reality and it is unlikely victims of such violence will get a fair shake of the law in their favour.
C'est la vie.
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