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South Africa, Shattered by Gender-Based Violence

Lately, South Africa’s courtrooms seem busier than most. Is this an illusion because of the prevalence of high profile cases, or is it reality? More often than not, a high profile case is usually required to bring attention to injustice and discrimination against women, or simply put, gendered violence. The highly mediatized case of Oscar Pistorius is in the spotlight, receiving much international attention; it is a looking glass, peering into the lives of South Africans and their culture of violence.

The recent Valentine’s Day incident has left its mark because it involves a man who many claim to be a South African hero, and Olympic champion. However, down to the bare bones of it all, it is just another case stacked atop a pile of numerous other cases—those that fail to make the top newsworthy headlines. South Africa’s enigma  is difficult to assess; the alarming and crippling crime rates, specifically those of murder and rape, insinuate fear among the populous areas, yet still remain elevated. It appears the days of Nelson Mandela and his cries for justice are distant.

Internally, South Africa is paralyzed; it’s significantly hampered by the recurrence of widespread crime. Firstly, the Oscar Pistorius case re-introduced the problem of gendered violence in South Africa. Last month, the ‘Blade Runner’ mistook his girlfriend for an impostor, asserting to have ‘accidentally’ shot her. The thing with accidents is that they have repercussions. Sometimes, accidents follow the idea of no harm, no foul, but not this time. A casualty was incurred and another innocent woman lost her life.

Moreover, there was an additional case, one that was overshadowed by Pistorius’ infamous one. The rape and murder of Anene Booysen was brought to court mid-February, then postponed. The two accused, Jonathan Davis and Johannes Kana, were both charged for their crimes committed. As the case progressed, more men were held responsible for what is now known as a gang rape. Perhaps if lawbreakers were granted harsher sentences, criminal activity would be halted, or at least mitigated. The lack of lawfulness makes women and children more vulnerable to attack. Rhetoric surrounding premeditated murder, otherwise known as a schedule 6 offense, is common among South Africans, the norm of casual discussion.

Gun control is a sensitive topic. However, at times, it can be used to make positive changes within a specific society, no matter how minimal the change may be. It is often debated whether stricter gun laws and weapon registration, adopted in 2004, may contribute to a less violent society. In the instance of South Africa, a slight decrease in crime has been observed.

This is not to say that the Rainbow Nation is peaceful, because it is in fact far from it. Statistics don’t lie. According to SAPS, South Africa’s Police Service compiled annual report, it has been analyzed that there are 3608.7 serious crimes committed for every 100,000 citizens. Yes, this is alarming; however, the overall crime rate is said to have decreased by 19% over the last year. More specifically, there were 94.9 rape cases for every 100,000 South Africans, most of whom are women—a decline of 3.9% . Perhaps the correlation between gun control and decline in crime may be premature to make, but the coincidence is strikingly accurate.


Despite this slight brim of optimism, South Africa is still facing a plethora of interrelated problems. Above all, women are silenced. The scene of gender-based violence is beyond tragic, deplorable, and problematic. Attempts at voicing such wrongs were sought. The vow to “break the silence” was campaigned over the course of 16 days, spanning from November 25th to December 10th, with the hopes of advocating for the eradication of violence against women, and children. Strategically sandwiched between the International Day of no Violence Against Women and International Human Rights Day, this “no violence against women campaign” addresses the vast spectrum of abuse, ranging from injustices of physical exploitation, rape, sexual harassment, child maltreatment, emotional abuse, to financial deficiency. Essentially, they desperately and urgently try to raise awareness about the bleak lack of fairness and security women face.


The South African government involvement is geared towards improving the lives of women and children across the nation, giving them a better stance in all facets of society. Whether it is the goal of female empowerment, the provision of care for victims of injustice, the establishment of a safer environment for women, or the mitigation of impoverished conditions, the main consensus is to work towards a safer South Africa.

Specific legislation enacted through the laws and regulations that govern the African country have one aim in mind: to safeguard women and children. The trinity of the 1998 Domestic Violence Act , Children’s Act passed in 2005, and the Criminal law act are all geared towards minimizing the occurrence of gender related crimes. Correspondingly, the ANC women’s league objectives necessitate the unity of individuals to fight the struggle faced by minority and mistreated groups. In short, they work towards promoting the emancipation of women, encouraging female involvement in public life, and countering gendered bias and discrimination. The ANC women’s league contests the mistreatment of women, and also propagates the mindfulness of human rights for all.

Several commissions are established to harmonize the effort to deter gendered violence. However, when they are corruption-ridden, it negates the purpose of their existence. Lulu Xingwana, the minister of Women, Children, and the Disabled, is blamed for dishonest behaviour; such scandal elicits the cascade of problems South Africa cannot make good riddance of. Conversely, there are debates within the National Assembly that reveal the party’s stance against the staggering crime rates. Despite their slight decrease, they remain too high. There needs to be widespread acceptance of the urgency for an ambiance of change, one with a new outlook on violence. This restructuring is only possible by re-educating the youth and future generations about the benefits of a life without the constant threat of impending crime, violence, or misconduct; this should be strong enough of an incentive to drive a transformation.

– Chloe Giampaolo


(Featured photo: PaternitéPas d'utilisation commercialeBukutgirl, Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo 1: PaternitéPas d'utilisation commercialePartage selon les Conditions InitialesTeachers Without Borders, Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo 2: PaternitéPas d'utilisation commercialePas de modificationCWGL, Creative Commons, Flickr)


About Chloe Giampaolo

Student of Political Science at McGill University. Born and raised in Montreal, Chloe has just recently rediscovered her love for her hometown’s architecture, fashion, cafes, restaurants, and culture; but most of all, its riveting politics. Her fascination with words and adoration of quotes has ignited in her a passion for writing, which she hopes to share with her fellow writers. She would like to raise attention to Canadian politics, more specifically that of McGill’s surroundings.

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One comment

  1. South Africa needs to take action now to change the long-ingrained attitudes towards rape and abuse against women. In the spirit of the UN’s international Women’s day it should heed the message and take the initiative to put such violence to an end. It’s not necessarily the form of punishment that matters—it’s the attitude, the mentality.

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