Femicide in South Africa: Almost the Norm

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

fem·i·cide | \ ˈfe-mə-ˌsīd ( noun)

The murder of a woman or girl based on their gender by a man.

Plural: Femicides


Femicide is a gory word. It illustrates the lengths to which misogyny extends itself to provide a man with power over a woman. It is the threat that women globally hold in the back of their mind when they go about their daily tasks. Femicide is a global phenomenon, and despite countless efforts to diminish and eliminate it, it persists.


South Africa has a particularly scary relationship with the phenomenon. It has become a reality within the country to take active measures to try and avoid becoming a victim. Many times, those measures don’t work. From close calls in uber trips to abusive and violent romantic partners, South African women are vulnerable and there is no safe place. Violence on the basis of gender could strike anywhere and at any time. To put it into context, a woman is murdered every three hours in South Africa.


Oftentimes, the result of femicide isn’t solely a murderous hate crime against a woman. It is

constituted of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual assault. These are almost

secondary issues that the South African women struggle with daily. In the context of the South African crisis, however, we understand the femicide phenomenon to be ‘the death of females as a result of any form of abuse by males’.


The murder of a woman on the basis of her gender as a definition of femicide within South

Africa does not encompass the true effect and danger that women are in within the country.

Whilst this does happen, the statistics count the direct motivation being gender and fail to take other factors into account. When these are compared to other crimes within the country, it is quickly overruled and the issue is diminished as having a direct effect on the lives of South African women. However, when femicide encompasses abuse, the motivational factors for the killing of women are widened, and this drastically increases the numbers, making it a nationwide crisis.


Rape is a huge problem within the country, with 80% of reported sexual offences being rape in the year of 2016/17, as well as 138 women per 100 000 estimated to have been a rape victim, it is clear why most people refer to the nation as the rape capital of the world.


In understanding how rape and gender-based violence play a role alongside the act of femicide in its own right, insight on how men collectively view women, as well as the way they feel they can treat a woman in various spaces can be found. The family has been cited as the primary place for violent incidents. In the province of Gauteng, it has been discovered through studies conducted by the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), that more than 50% of women have experienced violence in the home setting, as well as the fact that 80% of men admitted to enacting violence towards their female partner.


The ideologies of patriarchy play a substantial role in the understanding of violence against

women in South African society. The idea that males hold dominance on the basis of their

gender has been institutionalised within the country and thus entrenched into the communities. This clearly disadvantages women but also affects children in terms of being vulnerable to violence as well. This bias motivates the idea that social power is tilted away from women and towards men, and that they can consequently do anything to women because they are more powerful.


Where intimate partner violence accounts for much violence and the subsequent femicide that South African women face', the opposite, where impersonal attacks occur, are mostly

motivated by men asserting their dominance, and instilling fear amongst women across the

nation as a consequence. In 2019, a first-year student at the University of Cape Town was

raped and murdered by a teller at Clareinch post office in Claremont, Cape Town. Uyinene

Mrwetyana had been reported missing for some time before her perpetrator came forward and confessed to her rape and murder. Uyinene’s murder caused heart-wrenching pain and shook to the nation. This incident was embedded in weeks of unprecedented femicide within the country, sparking the #AmINext social media movement, where protests against gender-based violence and femicide were held.


At a protest to Parliament in Cape Town in 2019 after the death of Uyinene Mrwetyana,

President Cyril Rhamaposa stated his solidarity with the women in fear. The South African

President stated that swift action would be taken and that harsher sentences would be

introduced for perpetrators of violence against women.


In terms of legalities, South Africa’s constitutional framework protects the right of all citizens to have equality, dignity and freedom from violence. This legal framework also points to the right that citizens have to access justice and fair treatment amongst others. The Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 provides victims of domestic violence with protection from abuse from an intimate partner. This act does, however, take into account the variety of family and

co-residential relationships in which violence can occur within. These two acts and the presence of other laws to attempt to curb gender violence within the country have however, not been particularly effective.


Since the address outside parliament at the #AmINext protest, little to no legal action has been taken to tighten the law and provide more protection to women within the country. In weeks following this, more incidents of femicide have occurred and social media accounts like @keeptheenergy on Instagram documents a new case almost daily.


In conclusion, the enactment of femicide within the country has broken the law over and over

again, with perpetrating men continuously viewing the safety of women from violence as a

‘plaything’ that they can confiscate. The triviality of the livelihood and wellness of women within the country is high, and women live in fear in every aspect of their lives. The right to safety that the constitution states is available, is grossly diminished and snatched away from women daily. If there is nothing that is being done to assure safety to the women of South Africa, hopefully sharing this story will raise awareness and create conversation to the state of femicide and the safety of women within South Africa at this time.








Citations:

Dictionary definition of Femicide: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/femicide


Crime Statitsitics Series Volume V: ‘Crime Against Women in South Africa’:

https://www.justice.gov.za/vg/femicide/docs/201806-CrimeStats.pdf


Crime Statitsitics Series Volume V: ‘Crime Against Women in South Africa’:

https://www.justice.gov.za/vg/femicide/docs/201806-CrimeStats.pdf


Crime Statitsitics Series Volume V: ‘Crime Against Women in South Africa’:

https://www.justice.gov.za/vg/femicide/docs/201806-CrimeStats.pdf


Crime Statitsitics Series Volume V: ‘Crime Against Women in South Africa’:

https://www.justice.gov.za/vg/femicide/docs/201806-CrimeStats.pdf


Moyo. N., Khonje. E & Brobbey. M. (2017). Violence against women in South Africa: A country in crisis: https://www.csvr.org.za/pdf/CSVR-Violence-Against-Women-in-SA.pdf


Moyo. N., Khonje. E & Brobbey. M. (2017). Violence against women in South Africa: A country in crisis: https://www.csvr.org.za/pdf/CSVR-Violence-Against-Women-in-SA.pdf


#AmINext for News24.com: https://aminext.news24.com/


#AmINext for News24.com: https://aminext.news24.com/


Naidoo K (2020) ‘The War on Women and Children in South Africa’: https://www.saferspaces.org.za/blog/entry/the-war-on-women-and-children-in-south-africa


Naidoo K (2020) ‘The War on Women and Children in South Africa’: https://www.saferspaces.org.za/blog/entry/the-war-on-women-and-children-in-south-africa


Keep The Energy on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/keeptheenergy/?hl=en