FEMICIDE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Reeva Steenkamp was murdered by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius eight years ago, but femicide is still as big a crisis in South Africa today. A woman is killed every eight hours there – around three women per day, which is five times higher than the global average. Karabo Mokoena, 22, was killed by her ex-boyfriend Sandile Mantsoe in 2017. Mantsoe assaulted Karabo, doused her with acid, then set her alight, before burying her in a field in Johannesburg. He was sentenced to 32 years, but activists believe he should have been imprisoned for life. When he was sentenced, Mantsoe smiled.
Many believe the escalating violence is due to society viewing women as less than men, with abuse towards females often normalised.
When COVID-19 forced countries into lockdown in 2020, South Africa enforced some of the world’s strictest regulations. In the first five days, 2,300 calls were made to the police gender-based violence hotline – almost triple the amount prior to lockdown. And even when restrictions were lifted, the violence didn’t cease. A spate of killings took place over the course of one
‘A WOMAN IS KILLED EVERY EIGHT HOURS’
week, during which a mother-to-be was found hanging from a tree, another woman was stabbed to death, while a third victim was dumped under a tree.
President Cyril Ramaphosa called the wave of killings “a dark and shameful week for us as a nation”. He said, “The manner in which these defenceless women were killed points to an unconscionable level of barbarism and a lack of humanity. We note with disgust that, at a time when the country is facing the gravest of threats from the pandemic, violent men are taking advantage of the eased restrictions on movement to attack women and children. Gender-based violence thrives in a climate of silence. With our silence, by looking the other way because we believe it is a personal or family matter, we become complicit in this most insidious of crimes.”
This isn’t the first time Ramaphosa has spoken out. He has previously labelled the endemic violence a gendered war. He said, “As a man, as a husband and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and the children of our country.”
However, women feel the police still don’t take their reports seriously enough, or in some cases, soon enough, leading to preventable deaths. Last September, the government amended laws and created new bills. These include a new offence of sexual intimidation, tightening the granting of bail to perpetrators of genderbased violence, and expanding the offences for which minimum sentences must be imposed. But many say perpetrators are exploiting legal loopholes to avoid jail and need harsher punishments – some are even calling for the death penalty.