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By Rethabile Mashale

As I write this I am angry and confused. As a woman, social activist and researcher, I feel the need to address the issue of the “scandalous sex-tape” between the male prison warden and female police officer in Krugersdorp.  I have both seen the video and followed the story in the media, on Facebook and twitter and am still struggling to understand what is happening about this incident from a leadership point of view as well as a gendered and human rights perspective. It is from this departure point that I would like to share my humble opinion on the matter.

From the stories in the media, the male warden and police woman had accompanied an inmate to a hospital in Krugersdorp, while the inmate was being attended to, the two law enforcement officials engaged in the sex act which was filmed without the informed consent of the woman. This lack of informed consent for the filming and distribution of the tape sets the issue as a gross violation of the woman’s human rights, right to dignity, right to privacy, right to give consent and ultimately the right to self-determination about one’s body and how it is used and portrayed. It also highlights the intent of the male official in secretly recording the incident.

There is no denying that the sexual act took place, however, the way the situation has been portrayed in the media seems sensational and one sided and mainly favours the perpetrator, who in this instance is the man. As far as I am aware, the woman did not consent to the filming and distribution of the tape. Instead her “lover” secretly recorded the tape as evidence in case she cried rape. Then the tape was “mysteriously” shared to male friends who then distributed it further to their circles.  The impression I am getting is that the man wanted to brag to his friends about his sexual exploits and thus made the tape available to those interested. Unbeknownst to the woman, the tape was shared to everyone and the story went viral in a matter of hours.

I am not denying her involvement in the sex act, what I am questioning are the events that transpired post the sex act. The events that transpired subsequent to the leaking of the tape place her as a victim in this case.The public frenzy that has served to inflict secondary trauma and humiliation on her has spurred me to comment.

Had she been aware of the filming of the video, I probably would not be as sympathetic. I believe that she was coerced into sex, violated by the man she trusted and now is being violated by the media and public. This echoes experiences of sexual assault survivors who report a violent act to the authorities and are then violated and let down by the Justice System in South Africa. The man then admits himself into medical treatment for depression and suicidal ideation, resigns from his work while she is left humiliated and fired from her work.

The media frenzy that ensued after the leaking of the video tape and photos and subsequently led to an episode of Special Assignment being aired (SABC3, 24 August 2011), it is interesting to note the Special Assignment panel consisted of three men, including the editor of the Sowetan Newspaper.  The Special Assignment episode showed video clips of the two, with a pronounced focus on the woman, which served to further violate her in the public domain. A male decided to record the video, the video was passed on to males, a male editor decided to publish the story, special assignment had a male only panel,  but the woman has suffered the most! This leads me to invoke the age old questions of minority movements: who is speaking for whom in this situation? And what are they saying? How was the voice of the woman, whom I consider the victim here, heard in that context?

The failure of the appropriate legal leadership structures to address this matter in the public domain, which is where this case is currently negotiated, only serves to reinforce the notion that because the act was committed by a man, they cannot sell out one of their own. This inaction on the part of leadership structures reinforces the oppressive gender norms and further undermines and objectifies women in our society. This has implications for women’s rights by underminingthe struggle and advances of women’s movements and more recently men’s movements.

4 thoughts on “He stripped down my underpants and my private parts were exposed: commentary on the Krugersdorp Sex-tape scandal.

  1. Your piece is very insightfull and thought provoking. I must say that you are making sense and sadly this all happened in “Women’s month” yet there was no intervention in the matter as what would’ve been appropriate. I agree that the female officer gave consent to have sex, but if she knew it was to be recorded, it may have had a different ending or not transpired at all. Perhaps the film commission needs to follow up with the prison official (male) and charge him with the illegal production and distribution of pornography in the least…..

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  2. I am angry at the ‘inhumanness’ of the man in taking the video. Had some talk with a SAPS officer, who indicated had an idea, that the correctional guy wanted to prove to the SAPS man that he can sleep with anyone. According to this source, the SAPS men had chatted with the correctional guy, noting that this woman was christian, and would not have affairs in the workplace. The correctional guy asked for a month, to prove he could. And soon after, he handed over memory card with video as proof. I for one, suspect the woman was drugged, and as you watch the video, there is little of her ‘enjoying’ the act, but pain, and confusion can be seen in her face. I am of the idea she was like one in a nightmare, going through some bottomless pit, being dragged by a dragon, powerless she could not say no!!!
    Where is the Broadcasting Complaints Borad, who say they will not publish ponography? Why is the media killing people? Does anyone involved care about the woman’s children, family at large? Why did the man make sure the woman was more naked than him? If properly investigated, this man raped the woman, coercing her, manipulating her..I feel like crying when sheclearly shows signs of saying –‘stop it’, but the weacked man continues..Where is the gender Minister in all this? Can there not be a national statement on this matter?

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  3. Rethabile, I can understand your outrage at what is happening. I would like to add my views from a law, morality and rights perspective. Firstly, I would assume that both SAPS and Correctional Services have clear Codes of Conduct against which the behaviour of these two professionals can be measured. In this regard, one would realise at least two acts to consider: having sex in uniform and in the work place (for which both would probably plead guilty), and the distribution of the sex video (for which the man alone would be responsible). Both acts would presumably have the impact of “bringing SAPS and CS into disrepute”. In this sense then, the proper and legal course of action would be to institute disciplinary hearings against the two. The hearings should then have been conducted in a similar manner to all other violations of the codes of conduct. As internal hearings there would be no basis for publishing these incidents outside of the departmental sphere. In this regard I believe therefore that the Sowetan erred in publishing the story. A proper and responsible course would have been to raise the issue with the respective departments. If in subsequent follow ups it would have become apparent that no disciplinary action was taken, then maybe they would have had a basis to publish the story.

    Secondly, I will now look at the morality side. My reading of the moral issue here is that it is not about two consenting adults having sex. As the image shows the woman wearing a ring on her second left finger, the presumption is that she is a married woman and therefore this was an adulterous act. Now, if this is the case, we all know that while adultery is not a punishable crime in South Africa, it is generally looked at as a morally reprehensible act. I dont intend this to be an essay on ethics so I will not dwell on the right or wrong of adultery. My challenge to the Sowetan is that what was their intention in publishing the story? Was it meant to facilitate debate about morality or was it purely meant to sell their paper? Knowing the tabloid tradition, I suspect the later is probably more true. Otherwise if they had really wanted to promote a positive debate on morality, there are other ways to do so more effectively rather than scandalise one unfortunate incident. South African courts are full of cases involving adultery and similar morality issues where they could build a powerful debate from if they were genuinely concerned about moral regeneration. My conclusion is that their the Sowetan’s conduct constitutes a very parochial, narrow and opportunist brand of journalism. This story is unlikely to leave South African society any better enlightened than it was before.

    Third and final, I now comment on the rights side of the story. The South African constitution guarantees everyone living in South Africa the fundamental rights to equality, freedom and human dignity. If I start with the man unfortunately I dont have much sympathy for him: he fell by his own sword. When he distributed the videos he should have known about of the risk of further spread, so he cannot cry wolf now, fullstop. Our concern is largely with the woman’s rights. Rethabile you are right that several of the woman’s rights have violated. In order to appreciate this we must be very clear not to mix morality issues and rights. Even for argument’s sake if we say it was morally wrong for the woman to have an adulterous sexual act in uniform and at work, this does not justify the suspension of her fundamental rights: right to consent being video taped, right to dignity and right to privacy. As a result she should have surely suffered unimaginable mental breakdown, public humiliation, marriage breakdown and the public humiliation would even extend to her children who were not even remotely considered in publishing the story. And I have heard of stories of children in similar circumstances committing suicide after facing ridicule from friends and school mates. My verdict here is again the Sowetan acted irresponsibly and did not take even a moment to consider the consequences of their actions. In this sense, I would think she has a strong case to claim damages against both the Sowetan and the Correctional Services man.

    Finally, Rethabile I have heard a rumour saying she committed suicide, is this true?

    And by the way I am a man in case people think my views are influenced by gender.

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