Airing of Caribbean show featuring Pistorius’ slain girlfriend makes waves

Steenkamp’s slaying has refocused the spotlight on South Africa’s alarmingly high levels of violence against women.

South African Model Reeva Steenkamp in Jamaica


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Wednesday February 20, 2013 – The airing of “Tropika Island of Treasure”, a reality TV show set in Jamaica and featuring the girlfriend of Paralympic icon Oscar Pistorius two days after she was shot dead at the athlete’s home, has made waves in South Africa.

Women’s rights activists, in particular, have spoken out about the “tribute” to slain law graduate and model Reeva Steenkamp, which was screened on South Africa’s state television channel SABC 1 on Saturday.

An edited clip at the start of the show, in which Steenkamp talked about her “exit”, drew heavy criticism for its lack of sensitivity.

“I think that the way you go out, not just your journey in life but the way that you go out and you make your exit is so important,” Steenkamp said, as she leaned against a palm tree on a Jamaican beach in a pre-recorded interview for the show.

At the tribute’s conclusion, the slain South African beauty, who was buried yesterday, blew kisses to the camera and said: “I’m going to miss you all so much. I love you very, very much.”

Rachel Jewkes, a gender and health researcher at South Africa’s Medical Research Council (MRC), denounced the clips as particularly insensitive in a country where it is estimated that a woman is killed by her partner every eight hours.

“There was a big question about whether it should have been shown at all, or whether they were trying to get audience ratings off the fact she had died,” Jewkes noted.

“These sorts of quotes don’t make you feel any better about the suggestion they are exploiting her death,” she added.

In defending the airing of the programme on Saturday as scheduled, show producer Samantha Moon said the decision was difficult, but ultimately she wanted to share the “special memories” of Steenkamp.

“Reeva was an intelligent, beautiful and amazing woman, and we feel it would be an injustice to keep that unknown from those who did not know her personally,” Moon said.

Steenkamp was shot in the head, hand, chest and hip, according to South African media reports. Many of her compatriots thought the decision not to delay the show until after the funeral was wrong.

Pistorius was charged on Friday with murdering her in the early hours of the previous day. He denies the charge, claiming that he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder.

Steenkamp’s slaying has refocused the spotlight on South Africa’s alarmingly high levels of violence against women.

The ruling African National Congress’ Women’s League called for the courts to deny bail to Pistorius to demonstrate that the government was serious about stopping gender-based violence.

“Pistorius must be treated like any other person accused of such crimes and no special circumstances should be considered based on his celebrity status,” the League stated.

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