Violence has gripped the Southern African nation recently with both foreign migrants and women shouldering the brunt of it.

South African women have been at high risk of gender-based attacks leading to the brutal deaths of more than 30 women in the month of August alone – a month dedicated to annually celebrating women in the country.

Thousands of women took the streets last week in protest of the rising violence against women and the governments inaction. The protest took place over days outside the parliament and at the first session of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town. Women dressed in black and purple as a way of remembering those who lost their lives due to femicide in August. Many even took to social media to get their message across utilising hashtags like #NotInMyName, #AmINext and #SAShutdown.

The death of 19-year old Uyinene Mrwetyana proved to be the final straw for many women and a catalyst for last week’s protests. The teenager was a student at the University of Cape Town and was brutally raped and bludgeoned by a Post Office employee. Just a week after, South African boxing champion Leighandre Jegels was shot and killed by her estranged boyfriend.

These two cases are reflective of the kind of horrors inflicted on women by men on a daily basis. According to statistics, at least 137 sexual offences – mostly against women – are committed every day in South Africa. The country has one of the highest rates of violence on the continent and reaches five times the global average. It’s safe to say that it’s a dangerous time to be a woman in South Africa.

How is the Problem Being Handled?

The South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, admitted that there was a national crisis after three days of protests. Last Thursday, the President addressed the nation on some of the measures that will be taken to rectify the nation-wide epidemic. He announced that there would be a proposal to make a register of offenders available to the public, 11 new courts, a review of cold cases and harsher sentences for offenders.

But it seems like for such widespread and specific violence, there must be a cultural change as much as a legal one. The Minister for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Nkoana Maite-Mashabane explained: “At its core, violence against women and children is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect, a failure of men to recognise the inherent equality and dignity of women, an issue of fundamental human rights.”

Until there are specific programmes targeting men, it seems like there is little faith in Ramaphosa’s proposed changes.

Photo Credit: The Guardian

Aisha Mohamed