The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has welcomed the provisional suspension of KwaZulu-Natal acting regional magistrate Kholeka Bodlani, who is accused of going easy on rapists.
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola provisionally suspended Bodlani pending an investigation into her fitness to hold office.
The matter was referred to the minister by the magistrates’ commission, the justice department said.
Justice department spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said: “A judicial quality assessment of Ms Bodlani’s work revealed serious irregularities and shortcomings, most notably that a number of her cases had to be sent on special review in terms of Section 304(4) of the Criminal Procedure Act as several serious shortcomings and incompetent sentences were imposed by her.”
In a statement issued on Friday, the CGE said it believed the acting magistrate’s suspension showed the judicial system was “self-correcting”.
“The CGE, although satisfied with the move by Minister Lamola, will keenly await the outcome of the investigation by the Magistrate Commission,” it said.
“Whilst, the CGE respects the independency of the judiciary, this suspension should be seen as a lesson [to] other magistrates and judges to act with sensitivity when presiding over with gender-based violence (GBV) and other gender-related cases.”
The CGE also said magistrates and judges play a crucial role in eradicating the scourge of gender-based violence in the country.
“In a country where GBV and other related atrocities are rife, survivors should not feel that the justice system has failed them. Decisions by the courts should be rational and take into consideration the prevalence of GBV and its effects on survivors.
“Acting regional magistrate Bodlani’s judgments particularly in rape cases were insensitive in nature and undermined the dignity and trauma experienced by survivors of GBV”.
The CGE said its report titled “Lack of Gender Transformation in the Judiciary” has recommended that magistrates, judges, prosecutors and court interpreters, among others, get specialised training in order to deal with sensitive cases of gender-based violence.
According to TimesLive, Bodlani had earlier given a man who raped a six-year-old girl a suspended sentence, and said the victim did not show any signs of trauma.
Bodlani had also “set free a man accused of raping a teenage girl because he carried a bag, styled his hair and did the washing, which the magistrate said meant he must be gay and ‘not interested in women’,” the publication reported.