Zuma and Mogoeng
South Africa's president Jacob Zuma (L) congratulates Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng after Zuma appointed him as the new Chief Justice of South Africa at the presidential guest house in Pretoria September 8, 2011. Reuters

South African President Jacob Zuma appointed evangelical pastor Mogoeng Mogoeng to the Chief Justice position on Thursday. But, the choice of Mogoeng, who will now head the country's Constitutional Court, has already sparked fury in some South Africans.

Mogoeng is a controversial choice because of his historic stances on homosexuality and sexual assault. In the past, the judge has reduced the sentences of convicted rapists, as well as said that a man who allegedly raped his wife was innocent, both because she tempted him with provocative clothing and because sex between a husband and his wife isn't to be considered rape.

He is also an ordained pastor in the Winners Chapel International Church, a church that condemns homosexuals.

Many of his rulings have undermined the severity of the crime of rape and its consequences for victims and invoke dangerous myths about rape that often blame the victims themselves and excuse perpetrators of egregious crimes, a group of female Nobel Peace Prize winners said in a statement.

The group included Ireland's Mairead Maguire, American Jody Williams and Iran's Shirin Ebadi.

South Africa has a serious sexual assault problem. It was ranked by the United Nations as the having the highest number of rapes per capita, and it is said that women there have a better chance of being sexually abused than of learning to read.

Some South Africans still believe dangerous sexual myths, such as the idea that rape will turn a lesbian woman straight and that having sex with a virgin -- often an infant -- will cure a man of AIDS.

Zuma defended the choice, calling it a great achievement for our country, and a properly democratic appointment. At a news conference in Pretoria, Mogoeng also took the podium to defend himself.

I undertake not to betray this trust. I also vow to be faithful to the Republic of South Africa, to uphold and protect the constitution, and the human rights entrenched in it, Mogoeng said, according to Agence France Presse.

I do so confident that God will help me accomplish this important assignment.

Those in Zuma's government were also split on the appointment, and Mogoeng was apparently chosen over more qualified candidates. Mogoeng has been a judge for 14 years.