R Kelly’s conviction: Why it took 30 years for his survivors to get justice

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Singer R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on September 17, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.
Singer R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on September 17, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.
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After 30 years of allegations, trials and dozens of women coming forward to expose him for being a sexual predator who abused underage girls, he has finally been found guilty of all nine charges brought against him.

What eventually brought the international superstar and award-winning artist, Robin Kelly (54), to justice was a documentary series Surviving R Kelly, that was released in 2019 that became his downfall during his New York trial, according to Sky News.

Now the R&B singer, popularly known as R Kelly, has been found guilty of racketeering and eight counts of violating a federal law making it illegal to transport people across state lines for prostitution.

He had pleaded not guilty to all the charges brought against him. But in court it was revealed that his former tour manager bribed an official to get a fake ID in order for him to get married to Aaliyah in 1994, when she was 15 and he was 27.

In 2002, R Kelly was charged with 21 counts of making indecent images of children. After years of delays to his trial, the singer was acquitted, but the allegations never went away.

He currently faces a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

Read more | New footage of R Kelly allegedly urinating on a 14-year-old is discovered

Despite the allegations the singer continued the world. R Kelly was performing in sold-out arenas and winning awards.

The singer was considered to be one of the powerful men tried during the controversial #MeToo movement that has helped women share their stories of being sexually abused by men in power.

Prominent men such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Epstein Jeffery have been exposed by the #MeToo movement.

We spoke to Nosihle Mkhize from Tears foundation about why it has taken nearly 30 years for women to finally get justice.

“The attitude of our society towards gender-based violence is shameful. This has to do with culture and patriarchy.  This culture has resulted in more than half of the women around the globe being dependent on men. It makes it harder for women to come forward and speak out about their abuse. This makes the case of R Kelly no better, as he lured women with money and opportunities," says Nosihle.

"In a society of unequal beings, with power inequalities and gender roles, women are found to be in the most exploitative positions for money and opportunities. They use desperation to their advantage. This takes us back to societal issues of inequality and discrimination practiced every day and therefore it perpetuates violence and abuse,” she tells Drum.

Nosihle says the South African justice is no different to that of the US when it comes to its treatment of black victims of abuse.

“Cases of GBV, especially in South Africa, take time to get justice. With the societal norms and attitudes, black women are associated with their social class and assumed to be lying about their abuses. It takes a lot of other people coming forward to convince the court that abuse indeed took place and the perpetrator deserves to be punished," she says.

"This has cost a lot of women the opportunity to get justice or even the opportunity to report their abuse experiences. However, inequality still plays a huge role in such cases.

Read more| R Kelly's lawyer seemingly admits the singer had 'sexual conduct' with Aaliyah while she was underage

“Sexual predators are normally not strangers. They are people that groom their victims, and those around them, and use their power and privilege to their sexual advantage until they strike. 'Stranger danger' is a myth.

"In the case of R Kelly, it shows how much he used his power to exploit women and girls. The ruling he has at this moment is still not fully satisfactory until next year when we will be able to see if he gets sentenced to life or not.”

Nosihle Mkhize
Nosihle Mkhize from Tears foundation shares the justice system fails women across the globe.

Nosihle says that in South Africa prominent and powerful get away with crime and sexual abuse while survivors get secondary victimisation in court and through the media.

“Women in South Africa are still facing challenges of discrimination and patriarchal culture. It is sad that our Criminal Justice System has not taken it upon itself to support women and children exposed to abuse. Power and money still prevail, where upper-class offenders are not identified and escape punishment for their criminal behaviours. Justice for people on the grassroot level is not taken into consideration especially when the perpetrator is of power. We know most popular cases where victims get multiply victimized, for example Khwezi who never got justice for her abuse. And the thousands of women whose cases never got any media attention.”

Nosihle believes that South Africa should implement the laws put in place so that victims can be granted justice while predators are held accountable.

“The South African criminal justice is not as accommodating to survivors as it is to perpetrators," she says. "In this country we are currently faced with issues of perpetrators being acquitted because DNA evidence is taking two years or longer in laboratories. As a result, cases remain unresolved. This is really affecting victim’s willingness to report their cases. Survivors are betrayed and encounter secondary violation by the system every day. There is close to no support for survivors.

“We have the best laws in the world. If they were implemented every day, women and children will get justice and we would have a just society. We try our best to fight the scourge, and we encourage women to report.”

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