A petition has been started calling for the removal of High Court Judge Mabel Jansen over comments on Facebook regarding black people and rape.
However, the judge says her comments were taken out of context, and that she was referring specifically to the rape cases she has heard.
Well-known activist Gillian Schutte posted excerpts of written exchanges with Jansen on Saturday and Sunday, in which Jansen said, among other comments: “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.”
As excerpts of the conversation were shared on social media, comments flooded back reflecting shock that a judge could hold such opinions, and calls for her removal gathered pace.
Some also asked whether her previous cases should be reviewed for potential racist bias.
The petition on Amandla.mobi called on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) and the Department of Justice to remove her and by Monday morning, stood at just over 1400 electronic signatures.
But Jansen said she was not generalising, but was referring specifically to the case files that cross her desk.
When News24 contacted her on Sunday evening she said her husband had just died in the UK and the controversy had shaken her because the accusations are opposite to who she is.
She said the excerpts doing the rounds on the internet formed part of a private Facebook inbox exchange with Schutte last May. It started when she was trying to find help for the victims of the rape and assault cases that she hears.
It worried her that victims were often alone with no help – especially children and women who had been raped by a relative or family member.
Somebody suggested she get in touch with Schutte who would be able to give her advice on how to help them, and they started communicating via Facebook inbox.
Jansen said that she came under attack and was accused of saying that all black men are rapists. She blocked Schutte and, she said, she thought that was the end of it.
But Schutte said that Jansen had not approached her for help for the victims of rape. Rather Jansen had participated in a “raging” public debate where she was taken to task for racism and the conversation continued with Jansen messaging Schutte.
Jansen, who was appointed a High Court judge in December 2013, said the number and brutality of the rape cases the judges have to hear is shocking. A friend once commented that she may even have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from hearing them.
She said she even invited Schutte to read some of the case files.
“I was referring to specific cases,” said Jansen. “It was within that context.
“She knew I was not generalising.”