quote: This is a troubling story on a few levels -- it seems to highlight problems within South Africa's legal system and political establishment in relation to gender equality and AIDS prevention, among other things.
Women and AIDS activists said on Tuesday a ruling that cleared former Deputy President Jacob Zuma of rape and questioned the credibility of his accuser had set South Africa back by decades in fighting sexual violence and a brutal AIDS epidemic.
Zuma was cleared of raping an HIV-positive family friend on Monday after a trial that delved into the accuser's sexual history and saw one of South Africa's most popular politicians playing down the risk of having sex without a condom.
South Africa is battling one of the world's highest rates of rape ..., and the biggest HIV caseload, with some 5 million people infected.
In a ruling activists said reinforced dangerous stereotypes about AIDS and women, the judge said an "inappropriately dressed" complainant flirted with Zuma before agreeing to sleep with him, then later fabricated a rape story.
"This is huge setback for women's rights," said Dawn Cavanagh, advocacy coordinator for activist group Gender AIDS Forum. "The judge is feeding into stereotypes about women."
Judge Willem van der Merwe said it was "inexcusable" that Zuma -- who once led South Africa's anti-AIDS campaign -- had sex with an HIV-positive women without a condom, prompting an apology from the man many want as South Africa's next president. ...
But the country's best-known AIDS campaigners Treatment Action Campaign said Zuma's testimony that he took a shower after sex to minimise the risk of contracting HIV was "tragic".
"The conduct of this trial has put in question the principles of the equality of women; the prevention of HIV; the exercise of responsible sexual behaviour..." the TAC said. Activists criticised the judge for saying the accuser was inappropriately dressed, for accepting detailed testimony on her sexual history and for implying that not saying "no" means sex is consensual.
"Somewhere people have a conception of the perfect rape for a conviction, which involves a stranger, a weapon, a witness and a struggle," said Carrie Shelver, public awareness manager at People Opposing Women Abuse. "The truth is that sexual violence is not like that, it is messy, just like life."
They said Zuma had not done enough to quell sexism among his supporters, who during the trial burned pictures of the complainant outside the court and yelled "burn the bitch". ...
Several of Zuma's deeply conservative supporters -- many wearing the traditional dress of his Zulu tribe -- held placards reading "No woman for president", a reference to Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka, the woman who replaced Zuma as deputy president. ...