“If it is a tear let it be a tear, not a laceration”: Form J88 as evidence in prosecution of violence against women in South Africa
The availability of the J88 form in court is believed to convey the precise clinical description of the woman’s injuries as it is seen as prima facie evidence. This article reports how the J88 form is used in prosecution of violence against women (VAW). A four-phased sensory ethnographic design that used courtscapes, participants’ observation, document analysis and conversations with prosecutors and court personnel to generate data was employed. In this paper the focus will be on findings from conversations and reviews of relevant documents. The findings indicate that, regardless of J88 being legally endorsed as prima facie and standalone evidence, some trials of VAW cases continue without it. Most importantly, J88 forms presented for evidence are usually ‘silent’ as they don’t have any impact on prosecution of VAW. In some VAW cases, the J88 forms are viewed as recall for a victim’s condition. We recommend a synergistic approach that is transdisciplinary in nature in documentation of J88 forms. Such documentation will advance the legal and health practices.
Keywords: South Africa, medico-legal document, prosecution of VAW, prima facie.