Would the verdict have been different if Pistorius was black?

The case became one of the most followed murder trials of history but the verdict normalised the act of killing women.

Fatima Majeed October 24, 2014
The judgment has come and there are no surprises in it for anyone. We have all been anticipating this judgement since the trial began.



A woman was murdered by her celebrity boyfriend; it’s a simple case where the chances of justice being served exist as much as making a ‘Naya Pakistan’. The trial was fun though; it provided all of us the chance to savour the live court drama in the safety of our TV lounge. This live reality show covered the drama featuring Pistorius, a double amputee reliving the scene with his bat, tears rolling down his cheeks as a sign of “negligence” and regret, including convulsions and throwing up in buckets as he pretended to be too sensitive for it all. After serving viewers globally with this emotional ride, the channels worldwide conveniently shifted the debate to Oscar’s career. How long would it take him to resume his career and could he continue practising in the safety of his compound? How easy it becomes to forget and forgive a murder and move on when the murdered being is a woman.

Oscar has been charged with culpable homicide and has been served with a five year jail sentence. The murder case has been flashing around TV screens, social media and newspaper for months and became one of the most followed murder trials of history. The five year jail sentence has been dubbed as,
“A balance between retribution and mercy,” it could be relaxed into a house arrest after 10 months and he could get parole after serving half of his prison sentence.

The trial and its verdict have posed some serious questions about justice, gender, race, celebrity status, and media responsibility. The trial might have failed to serve justice but it has been successful in making the point that the human civilisation still has a lot of work to do, we have yet not evolved enough to grow out of the basic conflicts of gender, power paradigms, skin colour and the latest addition of media circus.

The judgement was, ironically, meted out by a female black judge, Thokozile Matilda Masipa, who assumed the role of a messiah and went for mercy instead of retribution. Wasn’t it Reeva’s right to live and enjoy the life that she had worked hard to build instead of becoming a victim to her star boyfriend’s “negligence”? Why does blood become so cheap when it comes to women? The judgement has sent across a deeply negative message that you could shoot a woman, raise hue and cry and prove it was a ‘mistake’. Can a murder ever be a ‘mistake’? I assume it could be when it comes to a woman. It bleakly reminds of the recent murder in Lahore where a husband shot his wife and child over an alleged love affair and regrets it by saying that he didn’t mean to kill the child. The worth of a woman’s life depends on the man’s testosterone level.

The judgement is wrong on so many levels. We are still living in the ‘Heart of Darkness’, where the fear of a black intruder is enough to justify any crime. There is always a black person, lurking in the dark, who is a perpetual threat to your security so even a hint or illusion of his presence is a reason worthy enough to kill. It has also exposed the deeply flawed justice system which has accepted the logic of fear as a reason to kill an innocent and which would have reacted differently, had it been a black man. Swap Pistorius with an ordinary black in this case and visualise how the story would completely alter in favour of the deceased.

Another loophole in the system is, being a sports star, Pistorius was privileged enough to buy his way out of a clear intended murder. Although the counsel fee made him financially broke, rumours say that he is already in talks for writing a book about this episode and recovering all his money. So, chances are, if you are a celebrity, you could kill someone, get away with it and then be wicked enough to write about it and sell the story. What if a regular broke guy “mistakenly” murdered his girlfriend? Would the court then buy his logic with no fancy counsel to represent him?

The verdict has normalised the act of killing women and made it seem acceptable in society. It’s a crime which could be rebuffed as negligence and a mistake, dodging all the logic and common sense in this world. Reeva Steenkamp was a beautiful and talented person. She was a certified lawyer and an established model. The verdict is not only an insult to her splendid life but to every woman in this world.
WRITTEN BY:
Fatima Majeed An avid reader, freelance writer and home-maker.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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COMMENTS (14)

hassan | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend The Vox populi was right and has been proven right ! four shots under assumption of a burglar??? When there was no breaking or entering?? The first shot would have identified who was inside the washroom ?? Just because he was a famous white Male celebrityhe was able to bargain a deal and act to fool the jury
annaZ | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend Intended murder?insult to all women?...his trial went on for a year and eight months.He got the punishment he deserved.
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