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SA row over judge's race rape comments

Do Not UseDo Not Use 9/05/2016
Protesters in South Africa hold up a "stop racism" sign © AFP Protesters in South Africa hold up a "stop racism" sign

A white South African judge has been strongly condemned for purportedly saying on social media that rape was part of the culture of black men.

Judge Mabel Jansen said the gang-rape of babies, girls and women was seen as a "pleasurable" pastime.

A petition has been launched to demand her removal as a judge. She said her comments had been taken out of context.

South Africa has been hit by a spate of racism rows in recent months, triggered by comments on social media.

The government has responded by saying that it intends to toughen anti-racism laws.

White minority rule and legalised racism ended in South Africa in 1994.

Africa Live: More on this and other African stories

Racial tension at universities

The latest row came after comments that Judge Jansen purportedly made on Facebook in a conversation with South African activist Gillian Schutte last year went viral at the weekend.

"In their culture a woman is there to pleasure them. Period. It is seen as an absolute right and a woman's consent is not required," the judge is quoted as saying.

In another post attributed to her, she said that "murder is also not a biggy" for black men and "gang rapes of baby, daughter, and mother [were] a pleasurable pass [sic] time".

Judge Jansen added, according to the post, that the "true facts are most definitely not that espoused by the liberals".

Leading South African advocate Vuyani Ngalwana said Judge Jansen's "outburst, effectively tarring all black men with the 'rapist' broad brush," was "shocking beyond belief", the local Business Day newspaper reports.

The Judicial Service Commission, which has the power to discipline judges, should ask her to explain her comments, before a decision was taken on her future, Mr Ngalwana is quoted as saying.

A spokesman for the governing African National Congress (ANC) said he suspected there were other judges who engaged in "racist stereotypes", while the party's influential women's wing said her comments were "purely racist" and misrepresented the "facts about black culture".

The opposition Democratic Alliance said Judge Jansen's comments were "not only hurtful and demeaning", but undermined "the dignity of our people," the AFP news agency reports.

The judge told local media that the posts were from last May, when she was in a private inbox exchange with Ms Schutte in an attempt to get help for victims of rape and assault.

"I was referring to specific cases," the judge told News24.

"It is very bad when you are attacked on this basis, when you know it is the opposite. I don't know what she [Ms Schutte] is trying to do."

South Africa social media race rows in 2016:

May:

#MattTheunisen trends after 26-year-old Cape Town resident uses derogatory words to describe the government on Facebook after it bans four sports codes from hosting international tournaments over failure to meet racial quotas

Rhodes Must Fall activist Ntokozo Qwabe boasts on Facebook that he and his friends made a Cape Town waitress shed "white tears" by telling her they would give her a tip "when you return the land"

March:

Standard Bank economist Chris Hart resigns after tweeting: "More than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities"

January:

Opposition Democratic Alliance suspends membership of estate agent Penny Sparrow over a Facebook post in which she calls black revellers at a beach "monkeys"

Government suspends employee Velaphi Khumalo over Facebook post in which he says black South Africans should do to white people what "Hitler did to the Jews".

Ms Schutte said she had made the posts of the judge public to expose the "deep racism and colonial thinking" prevalent in South Africa.

The hashtag #ā€ˇMabelJansen is trending South Africa, and a petition, "Remove Judge Jansen for Racist Comments", has been launched on Facebook.

Analysis: Pumza Fihlani, BBC News, Johannesburg

The latest row, involving a judge, has raised many uncomfortable questions - top of the list being how many other judges harbour such apparently prejudiced views, despite the fact that they are supposed to see all people as equal before the law.

Many South Africans on social media are calling for her to be sacked, and legal experts say her comments could open the way for convicted black people to appeal against her rulings.

Racism on social media is becoming a common feature in South Africa, and some analysts say the time for a frank conversation about how to tackle the problem has come.

The concept of the rainbow nation, established in 1994 after the end of racial segregation, seems to be coming apart at the seams. Can it be rebuilt or will the situation get worse?

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