South Africa’s Hidden Pandemic: Rape

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 2, February 2022

By Stephanie Wild

Anti-femicide protest in Cape Town in response to the murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana. Wikimedia Commons.

42,289. This is the number of women raped in South Africa in 2019. Such shocking levels of sexual violence have prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to dub gender-based violence as a “second pandemic, second only to COVID-19.  

Violence against women does not end there. Murder rates against women are also extremely high. A widely discussed statistic amongst South Africans is that a woman is murdered every four hours. This statistic was for the April to December 2016 period. The most up-to-date statistics are even more shocking. In the 2017 to 2018 period, a woman was murdered every 3 hours. Such data has prompted a discussion of what is now called “femicide.”

According to the World Health Organisation, “femicide is generally understood to involve intentional murder of women becausethey are women, but broader definitions include any killings of women or girls”.

The current atmosphere is therefore one of fear, where women are the target of a disproportionate amount of violence in the country. More than that, they are subjects of this violence simply as a result of their gender. Whether you deem this reality a pandemic or a femicide, it is clear South Africa is facing a massive gender-based violence (GBV) problem.

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