The recent withdrawal of the alleged sexual harassment charge against suspended leader of the African National Congress (ANC), Marius Fransman again emphasizes the flaws in the justice system in the fight against gender-based violence within South Africa. So says one analyst, after the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) decision not to prosecute Fransman, citing that the case lacked sufficient evidence. 21 year old Louisa Waynand laid a charge against the politician claiming that he inappropriately touched her in a car ride to the ANC’s birthday celebrations in January.
Fransman maintains that the saga is a politically motivated attack against him and that he awaits the ANC’s probe into the matter. The Democratic Alliance has requested the NPA to make public the record of the decision not to prosecute.
Political science lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch, Professor Amanda Gouws, explained that the case of Fransman is indicative of many sexual harassment cases in which a lack of evidence results in the withdrawal of the case.
“We have seen this in the Jacob Zuma rape trial, where there was also insufficient evidence. The president became the president following the rape trial and I am sure that Marius Fransman will go back to being the ANC leader in the Western Cape,” she said.
Gouws questioned whether rape cases are investigated to the extent that evidence can be uncovered, since many remain a “he said, she said” situation.
In light of the recent anti-sexual violence protests at various universities in the Western Cape, she said that, much like institutions, Fransman’s case perpetuates the normalisation of gender-based violence.
“He was in the car with other people, what did those people say – did they back him up or did they back her up? This plays into the notion of rape culture.”
While the incident has attracted both support and criticism for Fransman, the alleged victim has been thwarted by both males and females on social media with many individuals insinuating that, based on her attire in photographs, she probably ‘asked for it’.
In light of these assertions, Gouws explained that an individual’s attire does not warrant harassment or the blame for gender-based crimes.
“Blaming the victim is part of rape culture; it is always looking at the victim. We saw this in the Zuma rape trial, where the women who accused him was really on trial, since her photo was burnt in front of the court, while people were chanting ‘burn the B****’ – while nothing happened to Zuma.”
Gouws said that rape culture is based on attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions about the roles of men and women within society, and further noted that rape culture is further perpetuated by women.
Though the case has not been referred to the courts, Gouws asserted that cases of gender-based violence needs to be dealt with from the perspective that the incident occurred.
She said that while numerous politicians have been accused of rape, the government in general has not provided recourse for rape victims and has not assisted in curtailing rape culture.
“Because the question remains: “What would a young girl or women get from accusing Marius Fransman of sexual harassment? In effect, her life is also destroyed by being targeted by critics, there is, therefore, not a lot for her to gain.”