Home South African Heavyweights step in as woman challenges rape gag order

Heavyweights step in as woman challenges rape gag order

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The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Cals) and the WISE Collective have been granted permission to be friends of the court in a matter where a woman was silenced about her alleged rape experience through a gag order.

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THE WESTERN Cape High Court has granted the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Cals) and the WISE Collective permission to be friends of the court in a matter where a woman was silenced about her alleged rape experience through a gag order.

The court is also expected to rule on social media posts that contain rape allegations.

In 2015, a 31-year-old woman was allegedly raped by her ex-boyfriend while they were still in a relationship and spoke of the incident to close family and friends.

During different gender-based violence (GBV) campaigns, including the #MeToo movement in 2019, she shared her experience in a closed, safe online messaging group that was designed to create solidarity and support to survivors of sexual assault.

A screenshot of her private messages was circulated without her consent, and the ex-boyfriend approached the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court in November 2020 to obtain a protection from harassment order against her which was granted in his favour.

She was prohibited from engaging in or attempting to engage in the harassment of the man or his relatives or enlisting the help of any other person to engage in the harassment of the man.

The order further instructed that she should not commit any of the acts, including emotional abuse, and shall not disclose to anyone in any manner that the man allegedly raped her.

Fighting back, the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) is appealing against the decision in the high court.

“She has never directly named him or posted his images on social media. He claimed he could tell she was talking about him,” WLC attorney Chriscy Blouws said.

On Friday, the man was fighting an application by Cals and the WISE Collective, saying they were broad strokes.

His representatives argued that his approach to court was not an attempt by the man to silence the woman or to vindicate himself, but was in a desperate attempt to stop the death threats that he was receiving.

“The fact that South Africa is in a horrific state of gender-based violence does not justify the (woman’s) actions.

“… she had stated that she did not want to see the man behind bars but yet she has called him a monster and wants to be able to talk about the alleged rape to others and on social media.”

Cals advocate Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane argued that the man was seeking to silence the woman by misusing the court process.

“Cals submits that when applying the Harassment Act one must appreciate its purpose and history being founded upon the notion of protection of women and children from public abuse (where the Domestic Violence Act aims to protect them from private abuse).

“Cals submits that online discussions about rape challenges rape culture. These discussions mitigate the normalisation of rape. Online communities create space, at least, to escape the isolation in which many victims and survivors find themselves,” said Mokgoroane.

Mokgoroane further urged that the court employ a gender-sensitive approach to understand the level of pain and suffering experienced by women.

“In doing so, the court gives effect to the protections afforded to women under international law as well as national law.”

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