Giving ear to the voiceless
Book highlights how many victims are misinterpreted
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