#16Days16Fails - Raising Awareness of Systemic Failures Day: 3/16

Lenina Rassool
Posted November 27, 2020 from South Africa

#16Days16Fails is a collection of stories by women from around the country who have accessed systems designed to deal with GBV and experienced systemic failures and secondary victimization. We'll be posting a story a day for the next 16 days to shine the spotlight and raise awareness on systemic failures to adequately assist victims of violence.

STORY 3/16: FRAUDULENT DIVORCE 

"In 2011 I was fraudulently divorced. After some investigating and getting hold of the original paper, I learned that my ex had paid a syndicate who has links with someone at the DOJ and who worked in the courts to do this. The fraudulent divorce papers stated that we had no children, although we have 4, and that we lived on an empty plot in Pretoria, although I lived in Cape Town.

I was advised by a prosecutor to lay charges in Pretoria, so I flew to JHB and tried to lay charges at the Pretoria Central Police station. They refused to open a case and told me it is a civil matter. I then went to the High Court to seek recourse. They also said they can't help me. I threatened to chain myself to the pallestrade and phone every media house with this story. I was eventually given an audience with the Deputy Judge President. He informed me that he knew about these fraudulent divorces as there were about 5 a week going through the courts. I asked him why he was not doing anything about it if he knew this? He said that they can only investigate if someone lays a charge. I asked why I was the first to come forward to lay charges then, to which he replied "women are scared, they don't have finances, don't know what to do and don't want to put the fathers of their children in jail”.

I felt this anger rage inside me and told him that I would become the voice for women seeking justice. He then arranged with organised crime to take a statement. I applied to have the fraudulent divorce set aside. I had to fly to JHB again in order to have it served along with my divorce papers as he had been avoiding the sheriff. The fraudulent divorce was set aside in August of 2011.

The sheriff in Pretoria was complicit in the criminality and laid a complaint with the sheriff's board. The sheriff that I complained about sits on the board and I was told nothing will happen to her. Nine years later the criminal case is still ongoing, we have not appeared in court. The investigation was poorly conducted, the prosecutor apathetic and this encouraged my ex to continue abusing me through the system. He refused to sign the divorce.

I had to beg for financial support every month. He also laid charges against me for harassment and defamation after a Newsweek publication reporting on the broken justice system. My divorce eventually went through in 2013 and then I entered the maintenance court nightmare. I have a protection order for financial abuse due to the systematic and systemic abuse to protect my intellectually challenged son. I have been failed by SAPS, NPA and DOJ for over 9 years. This was the reason I started CMDSA to assist other women going through the dysfunctional justice system."

- Felicity Guest, Founder: Child Maintenance Difficulties South Africa#16Days16Fails is an initiative by Lenina Rassool and Felicity Guest to shine the spotlight on systemic failures in cases of violence against women and children. All the stories are real experiences by women who have interacted with systems designed to address issues of GBV and child protection.  #16daysofactivism #justice #GBV #EndViolenceAgainstWomen #EndViolenceAgainstChildren

This story was submitted in response to Sharing Solutions: Ending GBV.

Comments 4

Log in or register to post comments
Jill Langhus
Nov 28, 2020
Nov 28, 2020

Hi Lenina,

Wow, her determination is second to none. Do you know her? We need more trailblazers like her.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Lenina Rassool
Nov 29, 2020
Nov 29, 2020

Hi Jill,
Yes, Felicity Guest is a friend of mine and we are running this campaign together. She is an AMAZING woman indeed.

Jill Langhus
Nov 30, 2020
Nov 30, 2020

Hello Lenina,

Great to hear. You are fortunate to have each other, then:-) XX

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Dec 03, 2020
Dec 03, 2020

Hello, Lenina,

Kudos to you and Felicity for working together to make this campaign possible. "I felt this anger rage inside me and told him that I would become the voice for women seeking justice." - I love this statement so much. She used her anger and rage to start a movement!

Keep it up! We stand with you!