Addressing the problem of sexual violence in South Africa : a philosophical analysis of equality and sexual difference in the constitution and the new sexual offences act

Coetzee, Azille Alta (2013-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this thesis, the South African legal system's attempt to address sexual violence is explored through the lens of the work of the French feminist philosopher, Luce Irigaray. It will be argued that the South African equality jurisprudence lays the foundation for a strongly Irigarayan approach to the transformation of sex and gender relations in so far as our right to equality can be interpreted as being underpinned by an acknowledgment of embodiment, sexual particularity and difference. Our Constitution envisions equality as a value informed by difference rather than sameness and, in accordance with Irigaray’s work, it can be said that the implication of this is that the pursuit of the transformation of sex and gender relations on the one hand, and an acknowledgment of sexual difference on the other, are not mutually exclusive, but that sex equality instead calls for a fundamental recognition of sexual difference and an authentic response to the demands thereof. However, it will be argued that our newly reformed sexual violence legislation undermines the progress made on a constitutional level by entrenching a problematic approach to sexual difference in the definition of the crime of rape. This is done through firstly, defining the crime of rape in gender-neutral terms and secondly, retaining the concept of consent as the distinguishing characteristic between sex and rape. I will argue that through these features, our sexual violence legislation reflects the most basic mistakes that Irigaray identifies with the law. It will be argued that the legislation, on the one hand, denies sexual difference in a way that is prejudicial to women through its gender-neutral language, while at the same time, through the concept of consent, (re-)introducing a hierarchical construction of masculine and feminine sexuality into the Act in terms of which femininity is construed as derivative of, and inferior to, masculinity. Furthermore, the combination of the gender neutrality of the definition and the concept of consent exacerbates the situation, in so far as the gender neutrality masks the harmful construal of sexual difference that is incorporated in the definition through the concept of consent. Accordingly, judged from an Irigarayan perspective, the South African sexual violence legislation is deeply problematic. In addition, the legislation undercuts important constitutional developments, in so far as it ignores the constitutional insights that, firstly, sexual violence is a problem of sex inequality, and that secondly, the pursuit of the transformation of sex and gender relations is served, rather than undercut by a concern with particularities. On this basis, it is argued that the South African sexual violence legislation should be amended so that the concept of consent is removed and the crime of rape is defined in sex-specific language (while still allowing for male victims and female perpetrators) that facilitates judicial understanding of the complexities of the crime of rape.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie tesis sal die Suid-Afrikaanse regsisteem se poging om seksuele geweld aan te spreek, deur die lens van die werk van Luce Irigaray, ‘n Franse feministiese filosoof, ondersoek word. Daar sal geargumenteer word dat die Suid-Afrikaanse gelykheidsjurisprudensie ‘n grondslag vir ‘n sterk Irigarayiese benadering tot die transformasie van geslagsverhoudinge lê, in soverre ons reg op gelykheid geïnterpreteer kan word om in ‘n erkenning van beliggaming, seksuele spesifiekheid en verskil (“difference”) begrond te wees. Ons Grondwet stel gelykheid as ‘n waarde wat deur verskil eerder as eenvormigheid geïnformeer is, voor oë, en in lyn met die werk van Irigaray, kan daar gesê word dat die implikasie hiervan is dat die nastrewing van die transformasie van geslagsverhoudinge aan die een kant, en die erkenning van geslagsonderskeid (“sexual difference”) aan die ander, nie wedersyds uitsluitlik is nie, maar dat geslagsgelykheid eerder juis ‘n fundamentele erkenning van geslagsonderskeid en ‘n outentieke reaksie op die eise daarvan, noop. Daar sal egter geargumenteer word dat ons nuuthervormde wetgewing oor seksuele geweld die vordering wat op ‘n grondwetlike vlak gemaak is, ondermyn deur ‘n problematiese benadering tot geslagsonderskeid in die definisie van die misdaad van verkragting te verskans. Dit word bewerkstellig deur eerstens, die misdaad van verkragting in geslagsneutrale taal te formuleer, en tweedens, om die begrip van toestemming as onderskeidende kenmerk tussen seks en verkragting, te behou. Ek sal argumenteer dat dit deur hierdie eienskappe is, wat ons wetgewing oor seksuele geweld die mees basiese probleme wat Irigaray in die reg identifiseer, weerspieël. Daar sal voorgehou word dat die wetgewing, aan die een kant, deur die geslagsneutrale taal, geslagsonderskeid ontken op ‘n manier wat vrouens benadeel, terwyl dit terselfdertyd, deur die begrip van toestemming, ‘n hiërargiese verhouding tussen die manlike en die vroulike in die wetgewing daarstel, in terme waarvan die vroulike as derivatief en minderwaardig tot die manlike verstaan word. Verder, die situasie word deur die kombinasie van die geslagsneutraliteit van die definisie en die begrip van toetsemming, vererger deurdat die geslagsneutraliteit van die taal die skadelike vertolking van geslagonderskeid wat deur die begrip van toestemming in die definisie ingesluit word, verberg. Dus, vanuit ‘n Irigarayiese perspektief is die Suid-Afrikaanse wetgewing oor seksuele geweld diep problematies. Verder, die wetgewing ondermyn belangrike grondwetlike ontwikkelinge in soverre dit die volgende grondwetlike insigte ignoreer: eerstens, dat seksuele geweld ‘n probleem van geslagsongelykheid is en tweedens, dat die strewe na transformasie van geslagsverhoudinge gedien, eerder as ondermyn word deur ‘n besorgdheid met die partikuliere. Op hierdie gronde word daar geargumenteer dat die Suid-Afrikaanse wetgewing oor seksuele geweld gewysig behoort te word, deur die begrip van toestemming te verwyder en die misdaad te definieer in geslagspesifieke taal (op ‘n manier waardeur manlike slagoffers en vroulike oortreders steeds ingesluit word) wat geregtiglike begrip van die kompleksiteite van die misdaad van verkragting bemiddel.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/85588
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