Molefe Joseph Mphanama was initially found guilty of repeatedly raping an 11-year-old girl he "regarded as a daughter."
The original judgment from the South African court in which he was tried was that Mphanama was to serve a life sentence. After an appeal, however, the high court in Pretoria decided to reduce the man's sentence to a 20-year stint in prison.
The reason Mphanama's sentence was so greatly reduced was that the 11-year-old girl, who implicitly trusted Mphanama as a father figure, was called a "willing participant" in the sex.
While the judge, whose name is Mushasha, accepted the prosecution's argument that the girl had been "sexually groomed" by Mphanama, he still made a point to state that he was "concerned about the conduct” of the girl.
As stated by Shukumisa.org, "An example of this conduct cited by the Judge was that she opened the window for Mphanama, and 'only' showed her unwillingness to have sex by closing her thighs."
Shireen Motara, Director of the Women’s Legal Centre, cites "paternalistic thinking which is entrenched in many of our male judges" as the main factor contributing to this "totally unacceptable" ruling.
“We are extremely concerned about this judgment, and believe it must be appealed. The reasoning employed by the court amounts to a species of victim blaming, and was pursued despite the absence of a victim impact statement,” said Sanja Bornman, attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre.
Other women's rights organizations in South Africa have released statements voicing their concern and outrage over the recent ruling.
This list includes, but is not limited to, The Women’s Legal Centre, People Opposing Women’s Abuse, Teddy Bear Clinic for abused children, Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to End Violence Against Women and Girls, and the GRIP Rape Prevention Programme.