Over 100 people protested under the scorching sun outside the Supreme Court in Nicosia on Monday over a recent decision to reduce the jail term of two men found guilty of rape.
The demo was a prompt reaction to the Supreme Court decision last week on a case concerning a 50-year-old woman from the Philippines who in 2013 was raped by two 27-year-old Romanian men after they had offered to drive her to Pyrga because she had no transport.
Originally sentenced to 12 years in prison, they appealed the decision citing, amongst other reasons that the victim bore no signs of physical abuse.
Consequently, Supreme Court reduced the sentence to 10 years noting “excessive violence was not used to force the victim, but just threats and a slap”.
“Taking into consideration the circumstances under which the crimes were committed, and the young age and clean criminal records of the appellants, we believe the sentenced imposed on the two is excessive and this is an appropriate case where it is correct and fair for the Supreme Court to interfere.”
By midday on Monday, close to 130 people, comprised mostly of women but also some men, gathered outside the Supreme Court to send a message that “civil society is closely watching and monitoring,” Susana Pavlou, director of the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies told the Cyprus Mail.
Protestors held up placards that read “gender and age do not determine a rape sentence” and “no means no.”
“We disagree with the court decision. We need to stop victim blaming and combat rape culture,” Pavlou said.
“Rape is the only crime where the victim is guilty until proven innocent. Usually a woman, she will be asked what she was wearing, why she got in the car, as if she is to blame,” she added.
Indeed, the 50-year-old woman had been asked during the ongoing court case, if she worked as a prostitute, to which she replied with a negative. Commenting on this earlier, Pavlou said “a woman’s previous sexual history cannot be used against her.”
Protestors pointed out that the victim’s psychological trauma “appears to have been ignored” and questioned what message such decisions send to rape victims who want to speak out.
Pavlou said they were exploring possible further action such as creating a petition asking for higher sentences and the possibility of lodging a formal complaint for this particular case.
The helpline for any victims of abuse and / or violence is 1440.