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September 30, 2004

Sentence for wife rape doubled in 'breakthrough judgment'

The Supreme Court of Appeal has doubled the sentence of a man who raped his estranged wife multiple times. What a report in The Mercury describes as a breakthrough judgment came after a decade-long fight for the recognition of marital rape. The report says the man married his wife under customary law when she was 15. In April 1999 the couple experienced marital problems and the wife left to stay with her brother. In May, both were at court for child maintenance and a domestic violence complaint. The court issued an interdict stopping the man from making contact with his wife. Later that month he went to see her at her brother’s house. He dragged her out of the house and to an abandoned abattoir and raped her twice. After being convicted on two counts of rape, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. Yesterday, the SCA Judge Kenneth Mthiyane said this sentence was ‘disturbingly inappropriate’. He slammed the High Court judge, who said that these were crimes of passion – a desperate attempt to rescue his marriage. He said he understood the aim of the rapes was to subjugate his ‘wife’ to his will and persuade her to return to him, a consequence of male chauvinism, perhaps associated with traditional customary practices. But these were entirely unacceptable, the court said, as it re-sentenced the man to 10 years’ imprisonment.


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