Giv­ing ear to the voice­less

Book highlights how many vic­tims are mis­in­ter­preted

Talk of the Town - - News - LEBOGANG TLOU

SOUTH Africa needs to de­velop to a con­text where all mem­bers of so­ci­ety are ac­counted for, as can be seen through the launch of the book African Lan­guage and Lan­guage Prac­tice Re­search in the 21st Cen­tury: In­ter­dis­ci­plinary Themes and Per­spec­tives.

It was launched at this year’s Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val, as part of the WordFest pro­gramme.

Pro­fes­sor Mon­wabisi Ralar­ala is the au­thor of the chap­ter called Giv­ing Voices to the

Voice­less , which highlights one of the most painful plights imag­in­able: sex­ual crimes com­mit­ted against peo­ple who do not even have the means of ar­tic­u­lat­ing how they have been vi­o­lated.

The chap­ter was in­spired by the case of a 62-year-old deaf woman liv­ing in a ru­ral vil­lage who was sex­u­ally as­saulted and cast into a le­gal bat­tle in which she was in­her­ently mis­un­der­stood, re­sult­ing in the hand­ing out of a light sen­tence for her at­tacker.

“The crime took place in the woman’s home wherein the ac­cused en­tered the com­plainant’s room through the win­dow,” Ralar­ala re­counted.

“He was found hold­ing onto the com­plainant by two neigh­bours [and placed] un­der citizen’s ar­rest.”

Ac­cord­ing to Rarar­ala, the book was writ­ten to cre­ate aware­ness and de­vise bet­ter in­ter­ven­tions in em­brac­ing mul­ti­lin­gual­ism in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

“The dis­turb­ing is­sues about this case were that the po­lice only ar­rived at 5am the fol­low­ing morn­ing, and no rec­om­men­da­tions were made for the com­plainant to un­dergo med­i­cal treat­ment,” said Ralar­ala, whose re­search is to be found in chap­ter 11 of the book.

“What is so pro­found about this book is how it ad­dresses day-to-day crim­i­nal in­jus­tice and how or­di­nary peo­ple are un­able to win crim­i­nal cases be­cause of lan­guage bar­ri­ers.” African Lan­guage and Lan­guage Prac­tice Re­search in the 21st Cen­tury, for which com­pi­la­tion be­gan to­wards the end of 2015, cov­ers themes per­tain­ing to lin­guis­tics, in­tel­lec­tu­al­ism and hu­man rights, plan­ning and prac­tise, and ac­cess to re­sources.

Ralar­ala be­lieves deaf peo­ple have no ac­cess to jus­tice, so­cial jus­tice and lin­guis­tic writ­ing.

“What this book highlights about [the above-men­tioned] case is that through an or­di­nary per­son’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion lim­i­ta­tions, evil pre­vails,” he said.

“As this case high­lighted, the hear­ing im­paired, deaf, il­lit­er­ate per­son might be­come mis­rep­re­sented and mis­un­der­stood in a court of law be­cause they are speak­ing through in­ter­preters.”

PRO­FES­SOR MON­WABISI RALAR­ALA

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