Violence Against Women – A Problem In South Africa


Violence against women has become a serious problem worldwide. Information from different countries indicate that 35% of all women have been physically or sexually abused by an intimate or non-intimate partner.

While women across the globe fall victim to physical or sexual violence everyday, African women are particularly vulnerable to this regard. It has been concluded that African countries have some of the highest levels of physical and sexual violence against women in the world. However, the statistics are sometimes considered unreliable due to poor reporting probably as a result of fear. The South African report partly links the low report and conviction rate of violence perpetrators to the post-apartheid public perception of the police force.

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Moreover, the report states that the attitudes and prejudices of the law enforcement agencies and other government officials and the inaccessibility of services that should be made available to the public, especially in rural areas, are also part of the problem. Most South Africans still regard the police as agents of oppression like during the apartheid regime; thus, poor faith in the police to actually help is still built in the post-apartheid country.

The information follows a report by the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to the report, about 45.6% of women in Africa experienced physical and sexual violence, compared to the 35% worldwide.

Women who experienced violence with their intimate or non-intimate partners were likely to be depressed, have alcohol related problems, have HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease, unwanted pregnancy, abortion and a disorganized life.

Violence against women takes many forms – physical, sexual, economic, psychological, emotional – but they all represent a violation of human rights and dignity with lasting effects and consequences both for women themselves and for the communities they live in.

There is also the issue of corrective rape in certain parts of South Africa whereby lesbians are raped with the aim of  converting them to heterosexuality. 

One memorable case of this sort was the gang-rape and murder of Eudy Simelane, a member of the South African football team and LGBT-rights activist. More than 10 lesbians per week are raped or gang-raped in Cape Town South Africa alone and at least 31 have died from the attacks over the last 10 years.

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Victims of violence are not effectively supported by public services and this makes it more widespread and discourages the victims from reporting.

Violence against women in South Africa continues in full strength without necessary legal consequences for the perpetrators. South Africa is disreputably known for horrendous gender-based crimes especially the sexually connected crimes, irrespective of  having some of the most progressive legislation in the whole of Africa. The South African Domestic Violence Act has one of the broadest definitions of violence against women.

But the violence against women in the country has not abated despite the efforts of the south African government and steps taken to rectify the issue. Studies still report on the issue that 40% – 50% of women have experienced intimate partner violence as well as attacks from strangers.

This shows that violence against women is firmly established in South Africa, and it does not appear to be changing any time soon. Rather, violence has become the order of the day and an accepted way to affirm and reaffirm masculinity and dominance by the menfolk.