White South African Judge Allegedly Said Black Men View Rape as a 'Pleasurable' Pastime

A local journalist in South Africa has sparked outrage by releasing screenshots of a private conversation she had on Facebook with a High Court judge in Pretoria.
May 9, 2016, 3:50pm
Photo by Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

A South African judge is under fire for allegedly suggesting that black men in the country see rape as a "pleasurable" pastime.

Mabel Jansen, a High Court judge in Pretoria, apparently wrote the comments more than a year ago during a private exchange on Facebook with journalist Gillian Schutte, who made the conversation public over the weekend.

"In their culture, a woman is there to pleasure them. Period. It is seen as an absolute right and a woman's consent is not required," Jansen wrote, according to screenshots of the conversation. "You may find this hard to accept and unpalatable as did I. I still have to meet a black girl who was not raped at about 12. I am dead serious."

In subsequent comments, Jansen described a "veritable tsunami of rape cases" reaching her court.

"I must hand you — 10, 20, 30, 40 files and you will adopt a completely different attitude," Jansen said to Schutte. Later in the message she wrote, "Murder is also not a biggy (sic). And gang rapes of baby, daughter and mother a pleasurable pass time (sic)."

Schutte posted the conversation on Saturday and Sunday, and said Jansen had expressed similar views in a public discussion thread on Facebook.

Schutte said the judge's comments "illustrate how these colonial tropes are still employed by the white master narrative — and [are] easily drawn upon to undermine black movements and individuals who pose a threat to the status quo... to the detriment of women who are victims of rape."

She added that another reason for making the discussion public was "to expose the thinking of a person who is directly in charge of passing judgement on people whom she perceives as monsters and victims — dehumanized."

The conversation quickly went viral, and the hashtag #MabelJansen is currently trending on Twitter in South Africa.

Related: Court Orders South African President to Pay Back Government for Controversial Home Remodeling

Jansen said Schutte took the conversation out of context, and claimed that she had been trying to seek assistance for rape victims who had been on trial in her court.

"I was referring to specific cases... She knew I was not generalizing," the judge told South African media outlet News24. "It is very bad when you are attacked on this basis, when you know it is the opposite. I don't know what she is trying to do."

The country's ruling African National Congress party said Jansen's comments are further evidence that the federal judicial system should undergo reform.

"It rubbishes the notion that judges are some supernatural beings... people who are beyond reproach. That kind of stereotype from someone who is on the bench does create problems," party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told News24. "The bench should look at transformation. Yes, we have done a lot but we have not gone far. We still have to transform the bench."

South Africa was governed by white-majority rule and a system of race-based segregation until Apartheid came to an end in 1994. Several incidents of racist language by prominent individuals have sparked outrage in recent months.

On January 3, economist Chris Hart wrote on Twitter that "more than 25 years after apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities."

While Hart said he was sorry and that he did not intend to offend anyone, his employer Standard Bank suspended him as a result. The same week, real estate agent Penny Sparrow provoked anger across the country when she referred to black people visiting the beaches on New Year's Day as "monkeys."

"These monkeys that are allowed to be released on New Year's eve and New Year's day on to public beaches towns etc obviously have no education what so ever (sic) so to allow them loose is inviting huge dirt and troubles and discomfort to others," she wrote."I'm sorry to say that I was amongst the revellers and all I saw were black on black skins what a shame. I do know some wonderful and thoughtful black people. This lot of monkeys just don't want to even try. But think they can voice opinions and get their way of dear."

Sparrow later apologized for the remarks.

Between the two January incidents, the ANC said it would work to enact stricter laws to combat racism, specifically targeting "any act that perpetuates racism or glorifies Apartheid."

Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews