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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  • jo

    5 years for a murder is nothing. This is a disgrace.
    He deserves life in prison, and also to be officially banned from athletics competitions forever.
    This is an extreme example of men’s careers triumphing the lives of girls and women.
    I wonder if he will accidently be shot through a door when he is released, that would also be real justice.

  • This is an insult to Reevaluate and all abused and murdered women. This is an example of patriarchal injustice. Oscar got away with murder. He will always be a dangerous man and he will get worse. This will also encourage other misogynists to murder especially the rich and privileged who can afford to hire lawyers who care little about justice and collude with the guilty.

  • anne cameron

    Well, we all know if he’d been black he’d have gone away for life.
    sick sick sick

    but the poor little guy might be faced with house arrest and he’ll have to languish in his uncles many-acred mansion and wear a…oh, hey, he can’t wear an ankle bracelet, he doesn’t have ankles…will it be a wrist bracelet?

  • Derrington

    The more i see of any male led justice system, the more i realise how second caste we are to men, and disposable. Reevas parents are be paid by oscar, the judge thinks that five independent witnesses are trumped by a defendent whos statements were confused as she pointed out herself and contradict the forensic evidence. Here in the uk we have 30% annual increase in rape and 50,000 paedophiles that the police do not have the resources or will to deal with . Are we as a race safe in the hands of a race that seems to have contempt for us and their and our children?

  • It really is infuriating. The race factor, the gender factor, the insultingly low jail time – there are so many different nuances of this case! When I heard the verdict yesterday morning, I was mad too. Society is the worst.

  • Yet one more case where all I can think is those lines from Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”:

    In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded [her] gavel
    To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level …
    And that even the nobles get properly handled …
    Stared at the person who killed for no reason
    Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’

    And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance
    William Zanzinger with a six-month ten-month sentence.

    Ah, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
    Bury the rag deep in your face
    For now’s the time for your tears.

  • Hermione Green

    It’s pretty clear to me the judge was bought. After all, South Africa is rife with corruption.
    It is obviously very disgraceful because men like this need to be contained, not released in society to continue abusing.

  • mauritia

    I can’t believe this guy got such a weak sentence because of his story that he thought he was shooting an intruder. I know South Africa may not be the safest country in the world, but I’m pretty sure it’s still not typical behavior to shoot a home intruder dead if they’re not threatening you. What a fucking joke.

    • Derrington

      There is huge violence in the country between white and black and male and female. The judge seems to think fear and threat are a normal part of male female relations, that forensic and witness testimony are unreliable but a man whose testimony she herself said was confused, is reliable over these independent evidence sources. Reevas parents are being paid by oscar … It stinks to high heaven.

  • Non-PC RadFem

    Don’t get me started….
    My last rant about this travesty passing for ‘Justice’ didn’t get posted. (Don’t worry, I don’t blame ya Meghan, it’s just that when it comes down to violence against women: I get rather violent myself…)

    BUT! There might be a glimmer of hope here, this is the latest news:

    South African prosecutors file appeal papers on Pistorius ruling

    “Prosecutors filed appeal papers Tuesday against the verdict and sentence in the Oscar Pistorius case, the initial step in a process that could see the Olympic runner convicted of murder for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.”

    Link: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/south-african-prosecutors-file-appeal-papers-on-pistorius-ruling/