Cape Town - A woman is killed every eight hours in South Africa, the Medical Research Council (MRC) told MPs on Wednesday.
The number of femicides identified had decreased from 3793 in 1999 to 2363 in 2009, MRC researchers told Parliament's portfolio committees on health, and women, children and people with disabilities. It was presenting the findings of its latest study into female murders.
Intimate femicide, a term used to describe the murder of a woman by her intimate partner, was still the leading cause of murder among females.
The proportion of women killed by their husbands, boyfriends or same-sex partners rose from 50.3 percent in 1999 to 57.7 percent in 2009.
Just under 43 percent of women killed were targeted by people with whom they were not intimate.
Different trends emerged when researchers compared the number of perpetrators convicted of intimate femicide, and those found guilty of non-intimate femicide.
MRC specialist scientist Naeema Abrahams said many perpetrators were not even charged. Of those charged, the number of people convicted of intimate femicide went up slightly, from 35.1 percent to 37.4 percent.
“Among the non-intimates, something is happening here where we actually see a decline in convictions,” said Abrahams.
Among the more positive findings was a dramatic drop in the number of women killed with guns. She attributed this to stricter gun control laws. “Don't weaken that legislation. Keep it and strengthen it,” she told MPs.
The number of women killed with sharp objects, such as knives, and those who died as a result of blunt force trauma, had not changed much.
Abrahams said the findings showed there was no evidence that police had improved investigations into crimes against women.
“There are less murders, so there must be more policemen in the system... shouldn't they be better at getting better convictions and collecting better data on the history of violence?”
The MRC tried to conduct research on the blood alcohol levels of female murder victims. The Western Cape was the only province which could provide this data.
“Women are more drunk when killed in 2009 for the Western Cape... This tells us a story about alcohol and womens' vulnerability,” Abrahams said.
She said women killed with guns were sober, but a large proportion of those killed with sharp and blunt objects had high levels of alcohol in their system.
The MRC said evidence from the study showed the work done so far to prevent gender-based violence was insufficient.
Abrahams recommended that similar studies be done every five years to monitor progress made in preventing violence against women and attaining gender equity.
She urged MPs to use the data collected to influence intervention and prevention policies.