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South Africa’s GBV Crisis

Rape culture and gender-based violence (GBV) are, without a doubt, a major concern in South Africa. This might be a surprise as Mzansi is filled with beautiful landscapes, colourful vibrant people and firmly enriched by its historical and cultural roots. Sadly, the mesmerising aspects of this land are infected by the culture of female assault and abuse that brews in the dark corners of South African society.

According to WHO, as of 2019, South Africa has had a femicide rate of 12.5 per 100,000 women (Per Annum) and a rape rate of 72.1 per 100,000 women (Per Annum). Considering South Africa’s approximate female population of 29.7 million, that equates to an estimated 25.1 thousand women murdered and raped in South Africa each year. These has been a recent escalation in these statistics, due to the COVID-19 lockdown procedures. In April 2019 South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, declared that the rape capital of the world was in a state of emergency as Gender-Based violence was finally acknowledged as a national crisis.

It is clear that South Africa’s criminal justice, legal and policy frameworks are heavily flawed. Although, the cause for such prominent rates in gender-based violence and rape is unknown. It can be said that the government, it’s policies and the constitution beneath it, play a considerably large role in the rate of its occurrence. The South African constitution, which has been said to be one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, fundamentally protects all its citizens from any form of discriminatory and or dehumanising grievances regardless of their ethnicity, religion, culture or socio-economic background. However, in practice, the South African government has failed to reach the standards set by its venerated bill of rights. The President, the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) desperately need to collaborate effectively to catalyse change in Mzansi.

The SAPS recorded 42,289 rapes in the 2019/20 calendar year. Surprisingly enough, the number of opened and or convicted cases of rape in the same year were significantly lower. The process in which cases fail to reach fruition within the criminal justice system is referred to as “attrition”. Attrition is the reason for the inefficiency of South Africa’s justice system. The unreliable discretion of police officials, errors in both investigation and prosecution stages and the failure to establish prima facie cases in the trial stage are all causes of attrition and the subsequent reason for the injustices done to all South Africans but more importantly the women and children who’s dignity and lives are at risk. This evidently should be a key point of attention for SAPS and the president of South Africa.

Prevention strategies are key to a better and safer South Africa. The importance of changing the social norm in South Africa is paramount and this can be done effectively through schools across the country. Through teaching young South Africans skills on how to prevent sexual assault and how to support victims of gender-based violence, the societal norm will be subject to change. Furthermore, with the help of the SAHRC and SAPS the government may be able to provide better opportunities, safe protective environments and economically empower South African women and children. Strengthened female leadership, economic support and the creation of protective environments ensure better prevention from gender-based violence.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that we live in a wicked world and the painful truth is that perpetrators of gender-based violence and sexual assault are bound to be in our society. However, we do not have to submit to them. This is simply for the sake of women such as Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jankia Mallo, Leighandre Jegel, Jesse Hess and many more who’ve already lost their lives to the GBV crisis and the millions of women who still face the crisis in their daily lives. As South Africans, we need to come together to fight the disease that is gender-based violence and bring a brighter South Africa into reality.


“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

- Edmund Burke

Tears Foundation :

Helpline : *134*7355#


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