Nonhlanhla Sibanda-Moyo, Eleanor Khonje, Maame Kyerewaa Brobbey
In South Africa, a country scarred by the history of apartheid, violence against women (VAW) is endemic. Statistics on femicide, rape and domestic violence demonstrate unprecedented prevalence rates. According to South Africa’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey, one in five women older than 18 has experienced physical violence. This figure is reportedly higher in the poorest households, where at least one in three women has reported physical violence. A 2009 Medical Research Council study reported that three women die at the hands of their intimate partner every day. This femicide rate is five times more than the global average.
The rate of sexual violence is also one of the highest in the world. The country is characterised by a strong legislative and policy-enabling environment aligned with international conventions that seek to protect and promote the rights of women. At the same time, a comprehensive set of government programmes and dynamic civil society organisations (CSOs) are providing essential services to women.
Yet, despite the myriad of legal protections and interventions by state and non-state actors, women in South Africa continue to experience extremely high rates of violence. This raises human security concerns for women particularly and for the country at large. It also begs the question of why VAW persists in South Africa, and what needs to be done to address it.