The five-year prison sentence handed down to Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius for killing his girlfriend last Valentine’s Day has prompted some strong reactions from those concerned about the message it sends about domestic violence cases in South Africa and beyond.
Judge Thokozile Masipa cited “gross negligence” on the part the double-amputee runner in her sentence, which she said was a balancing act between retribution and clemency.
“I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send a wrong message to the community,” Masipa said after summarizing parts of the case and explaining why she reached her decision. “On the other hand, a long sentence would not be appropriate either as it would lack the element of mercy.”
The five-year sentence could actually mean as few as 10 months in prison, with Pistorius serving out the remainder under house arrest.
This is not sitting well with many who have taken to social media to express their disgust.
“Pistorius’ ridiculous sentence says a lot about how the court puts racial and male privilege above the safety of women,” tweeted Garikai Chengu
“#Pistorius’ five-year jail sentence, ten months of which will be served in prison, belittles domestic violence against women.” added Jonny Gould.
The verdict quickly created “#nojustice” as a trend, with others using the hashtag #ThingsLongerThanOscarsSentence.
Meanwhile, the sentencing has angered some who say the trial has distracted from non-celebrity domestic violence.
An estimated 2,361 women in South Africa have been killed by their partners since Steenkamp’s death, according to a Mama Mia posting, which doesn't give a source for the figure. If accurate, that’s four women each day.
“We will likely never know these women’s names and we will never know their stories. Nor will we ever know whether the men who murdered these women were brought to justice or whether they evaded punishment. Such is the nature and extent of the problem,” wrote Nina Funnell. “And if we genuinely care about the life and ambitions of Reeva Steenkamp – who was herself an advocate against gender-based violence – we can’t continue to ignore this problem.”
Some have compared the trial saga to that of OJ Simpson, who was accused and acquitted of killing his wife, in the United States.
The comparisons were reawakened after what some considered a light sentencing.
But not all reaction to the sentencing has been negative. Some offered support to Steenkamp’s family and praise of Masipa’s handling of the trial.
“Pistorius five-year sentence reflects Judge Masipa’s judicial objectivity wisdom & humanity shown throughout trial,” tweeted Melanie Phillips.
The Economist reported that Steenkamp’s family and friends seemed accepting of the sentence.
“It’s right,” said her mother, June Steenkamp, smiling gently, as she left the courtroom.
South Africa’s News24 reported the head of the National Prosecuting Authority said he would discuss a possible appeal with prosecutors, adding that senior prosecuting staff were “agitated” about the outcome of the case.