Giving Ear to the voiceless

Professor Monwabisi Ralarala. PICTURE: LEBOGANG TLOU

South Africa is developing towards a context where all members of society are accounted for as can be seen through the launch of African Language and Language Practice Research in the 21st Century: Interdisciplinary Themes and Perspectives at this year’s National Arts Festival as part of the WordFest programme. Professor Monwabisi Ralarala is author to the chapter called: Giving Voices to the Voiceless, which highlights one of the most painful plights imaginable: sexual crimes committed against persons who do not even have the means of articulating how they have been violated.

The chapter entitled Giving Voices to the Voiceless was inspired by the case of a 62 year old death woman living in a rural village that was taken sexual advantage of, and cast into a legal battle from which she was inherently misunderstood, resulting in the dispensation of a meager sentencing for her attacker.

“The crime took place in the woman’s home wherein the accused entered the above complainant’s room through the window,” Ralarala recounted. “He was found holding on to the complainant by two neighbours under citizen’s arrest.”

According to Rararala, this entire 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 5 am the following morning, and no recommendations were made for the complainant to undergo medical treatment,” said Ralarala, who’s 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: Interdisciplinary Themes and Perspectives, for which compilation begant towards the end of 2015, covers themes pertaining to: applied nature and pure linguistic, intellectualism & Human Rights, Planning & Practise and Access to Resources.

Based on the findings in his chapter within the esteemed publication, Ralarala believes that deaf people have no access to justice, social justice and linguistic writing.

“What this book highlights about this case is that through an ordinary person’s communication limitations, evil prevails…,” stated Ralarala. “As this case [abovementioned] highlighted, the hearing impaired, deaf, illiterate person might become misrepresented and misunderstood in a court of law because they are speaking through interpreters.”

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