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Louise Pennington Headshot

Her Name Was Reeva Steenkamp

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Monday was the start of the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius over the death of lawyer Reeva Steenkamp, who he was in a relationship with. Or, as The Sun calls it for what it is:

The other Oscar show
Blade Runner's murder trial gets underway

We should be horrified and offended by the Sun's headlines today but it's actually an accurate reflection of how the media has turned the brutal death of a woman into a three-ring circus. The trial is being aired live on television: a first for South Africa as justice is now a commodity flogged to the media. It is the ultimate form of reality television: murder for entertainment.

You could be forgiven for not know either Steenkamp's name or her employment since much of the mainstream media seems to have forgotten both. The BBC's live coverage of the trial lists Steenkamp as a model and reality TV star effectively erasing both her career and her activism from public record. Most of the media has focused on Pistorius' career as an athlete and Steenkamp's body, which is the ultimate act of dehumanisation.

When Steenkamp was killed in February 2013, media outlets like the Sun and the Daily Mail chose to run articles featuring Steenkamp in bikinis; as if Steenkamp only mattered because she was beautiful and, by default, white. I thought this, only with live coverage of the trial, would be debased as humanity could get. I was wrong.

Online gambling site PaddyPower are currently offering a "bet" on whether or not Pistorius will be convicted. This is the state our justice system has arrived at: we can now bet on whether or not a man will convicted for the premeditated murder of a woman who he shot four times through a bathroom door. This is how PaddyPower has advertised their stunt:

He's the double amputee who became a global star after winning six Paralympic golds and then competing in the Olympics. She was the law graduate cover-girl.

Global media attention, bar-stool conversation and pillow talk will shift from the Oscars on Sunday night to Oscar on Monday when the Blade Runner straps on his prosthetic limbs for the long walk to the high court. ...

His fate rests in the hands of a former crime reporter judge, Thokozile Matilda Masipa, who has with a history of stiff sentences. ....

There will be no jury. Gulp.

We are no longer simply watching the trial live, as we did with OJ Simpson trial when he was arrested for the over the deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, we are now being asked to actively participate in the trial itself. This is the ultimate form of 'trial by media', but this time the average punter can financially profit from participation. It's hardly shocking that more than 60% of bets taken before the start of the trial were for a not guilty verdict.

This is what feminists mean when we talk about a "war on women". Steenkamp is no longer the victim of a crime but rather an irrelevant object in the show: Oscar Pistorius the athlete. In South Africa, current or former male partners murder three women a day. South Africa also has the highest rate of rape and sexual violence against girls and women. In the UK, two women a week die at the hands of current of former male partners, 10 women a week commit suicide to escape male violence and one in four women are victims of rape.

Women's bodily integrity is violated on a daily basis and, now, are deaths are not only entertainment but also profit-making exercises for gambling companies.

This is not justice.

Reeva Steenkamp deserves better than to be used as a marketing gimmick by PaddyPower. They need to end this 'stunt' and donate all the money currently raised to women's services.

No one should be allowed to financially profit from death: not the criminal and not corporations. There is now a petition demanding that Paddy Power remove this egregious stunt. Please sign it.

Around the Web

Reeva Steenkamp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Neighbour describes 'bloodcurdling screams' on night of Reeva Steenkamp ...

Oscar Pistorius Trial: Reeva Steenkamp's Clothes 'Could Secure Conviction'

Reeva Steenkamp's mother: I want to look Oscar Pistorious in the eyes at ...

Oscar Pistorius pleads not guilty to Reeva Steenkamp's murder

Oscar Pistorius trial: Friend of Reeva hoping for truth