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.