Women's rights groups in South African claimed on Thursday that Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria home on Feb. 14, is receiving special treatment during the bail hearing taking place this week.
If bail is granted by the court when a decision is announced at 2:30 p.m. local time Friday, 7:30 a.m. New York Time, more protests will surely follow.
The Women’s League of the ruling African National Congress joined a protest calling for Pistorius to be sent to a prison pending the outcome of his bail hearing. It is standard practice for persons charged with serious crimes in South Africa to be sent to a prison, not housed in a local police station.
The women's groups have also complained that the famous athlete is permitted visitors in his cell at all hours, instead of at limited hours like in a prison.
Media coverage also has been criticized for minimizing the fate of Reeva Steenkamp.
“We want him to be treated like other criminals that have been charged with murder or abuse of women,” said Lulu Xingwana, South African Women’s Minister.
“A strong message must be sent out that wealth and celebrity cannot give you an advantage over the law,” said the Women’s League in a statement.
The Guardian quoted Gavin Venter, an employee who works for Steenkamp's father, as saying: "Without a doubt he's a danger to the public. He'll be a danger to witnesses. He must stay in jail. He's already shown how dangerous he can be for what he did to Reeva."
Steenkamp's family members and friends have noted the irony of her campaigning against violence against women.
A ruling on Pistorius' bail was delayed at least until Friday after the chief police investigator, Hilton Botha, was replaced because he is being investigated for alleged attempted murder for firing at a taxi that would not stop.
Magistrate Desmond Nair, in his questioning, has recognized that granting bail could raise questions of public order. He also must consider whether Pistorius, who has allegedly threatened people on several occasions, might try to influence or even threaten witnesses.
Defense lawyer Barry Roux, who has challenged numerous prosecution statements, was himself caught in a contradiction. He denied Pistorius had a house in Italy, thus making him a flight risk.
However, Pistorius gave an interview to the South African celebrity magazine Sarie recently in which he said: “The past two years I have a house in Gemona, Italy, where I stay four months of the year because I exercise. My house there is between the mountains and it's so peaceful and quiet.”
The South African Institute for Race Relations says 2,500 adult South Africa women are murdered each year.
In 2010, one of the women murdered was Anni Dewani, wife of wealthy British businessman Shrien Dewani. She was murdered near Cape Town on the couple’s honeymoon
Dewani returned to the UK before South African police caught his wife's killer, who claimed that the husband had hired him.
The same government that has been willing to extradite Wikileaks founderto Sweden on dubious sexual assault allegations had refused to extradite Shrien Dewani because he claims to be suffering from mental trauma as a result of the killing.
As for the tabloid coverage of Pistorius' case, BoldType.com reports: “Reeva Steenkamp features minimally in these narratives. Where she appears, she is a “platinum-haired model” or a “leggy blonde.”
This point is made admirably by Katie J.M. Baker at Jezebel under the ironic headline ‘Newspapers Report that Awesome Athlete Oscar Pistorius May Have Killed Some Hot Chick’.
"We are invited to believe that as a model and aspiring reality television star she is implicitly disposable in a way that the differently leggy Pistorius as a male super-athlete is not,” wrote Baker.
Mainstream media has described the fact that Steenkamp had a law degree as a “contradiction.”