Oscar Pistorius sentenced to five years for murdering Reeva Steenkamp

Last year, on Valentines Day, Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius fired four shots through his bathroom door, killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who was on the other side.

On September 12th, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa found him guilty of culpable homicide — essentially a manslaughter charge. The maximum sentence he could receive with a culpable homicide charge would have been 15 years.

Today, Pistorius was given a five year sentence.

Five fucking years. For murder.

Oh. And he only has to serve one-sixth of his sentence in prison — 10 months — before he is eligible to be moved to house arrest.

It’s clear from the evidence brought forth during the trial that Pistorius knew full well that his girlfriend was locked in the bathroom and that he was trying to shoot her (like, obviously), despite the fact that Masipa cited “gross negligence” when delivering her sentence.

“I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send a wrong message to the community,” Masipa explained, with regard to her decision. “On the other hand, a long sentence would not be appropriate either as it would lack the element of mercy.”

Mercy, huh. Reeva Steenkamp is dead. At the hands of her abuser. Did he show mercy when he shot her to death? Yet we are expected to show mercy in terms of his sentencing. Ok. I get it.

You know what “message” this sentencing could have sent to “the community?” That women’s lives matter.

Instead, what we’ve learned (and what we’ve learned time and time again) is that men’s lives matter, men’s careers matter, men’s reputations matter, men’s money and power matters… And that women’s lives are irrelevant.

Reeva Steenkamp is gone, and Pistorius will continue on. What’s five years, after all? Five years that he likely won’t even serve in full?

The message is that men can get away with murder. Particularly when the victim is a woman.

To those who take issue with her ruling, Masipa’s response is this:

Society cannot always get what they want. Courts do not exist for a popularity contest but only to dispense justice … The general public may not even know the difference between punishment and vengeance.

Are you sure about that? Because it seems pretty clear that, in fact, that “popularity” played a huge role in this ruling. Are we to believe that the fact that Pistorius is a white, rich, famous, powerful man has nothing to do with this decision?

Is this what justice looks like? Because this sure as fuck doesn’t feel like “justice.” In fact, this feel anything but just.

Pistorius’ prison sentence at Kgosi Mampuru II prison in the South African capital begins immediately. He will be banned from athletics competitions until 2019. (Wah.)

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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