Male murder rate is ‘disproportionately’ high

A total of 19 477 injury deaths were due to homicide, representing 36% of all injury deaths.

A total of 19 477 injury deaths were due to homicide, representing 36% of all injury deaths.

Published Dec 15, 2023


The Female and Male Homicide and Injury Mortality Study (FAMHIS) funded by the SA Medical Research Council(MRC) found that men have far higher homicide rates than women in all age groups.

Richard Matzopoulos from the MRC’s Burden of Disease Research Unit and his colleagues, published the study last month in the PLOS Global Public Health journal.

The study titled: “South Africa’s male homicide epidemic hiding in plain sight: Exploring sex differences and patterns in homicide risk in a retrospective descriptive study of post mortem investigations”, highlights the high levels of homicide in South Africa, the disproportionate number of adult male murders, and the negligible evidence-based prevention response to date.

The researchers compared 2017 male and female victim profiles for selected predictors against global average and previous estimates for 2009.

Sixty-five mortuaries from eight provinces were selected with an expected sample of 22 733 records. Information collected from the post-mortem report included age, sex of the deceased, date, external cause, apparent manner of death and blood alcohol concentration.

“A total of 19 477 injury deaths were due to homicide, representing 36% of all injury deaths. Males accounted for 87% of homicides. Men had a much higher age standardised homicide rate than women, equivalent to 7 male deaths for every 1 female death,”the study found.

The most common external causes of death were sharp force, firearm discharge and blunt force injuries, with significantly higher rates among men than women. Men had far higher homicide rates than women in all age groups, specifically among the age group 15-29 and 30-44 years, equating to 8.4 and 7.9 males for every female death in these age groups respectively.

The study found that 88% of firearm homicides occurred in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape.

“We urgently need a redoubling of efforts to control alcohol and firearms, which have already been shown to influence rates of violence in South Africa, as well as programmes to address the insidious effect of societal norms that drive the excessive burden of physical violence borne by men, and structural interventions to overcome the root causes of poverty and inequality,” recommended the study.

The researchers said the study was an important and necessary first step to identifying specific groups at increased homicide risk who could benefit from specific interventions and policies.

“These findings confirm the enduring nature of South Africa’s problem of interpersonal violence in 2017 and the massive, disproportionate homicide risk borne by adult men. This hugely elevated risk was already reported in previous national estimates in which males accounted for 84% of homicides, and 86% in 2000 and 2009 respectively,”found the study.

Policing consultant with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), David Bruce, said the rate of murder was at its highest level in the last 20 years.

He said the data reported in this study was also supported by the latest SAPS data on murder.

“For the 2022/23 year this shows that 81.5% of murder victims were adult men (18 years and older), 14.4% were adult women, and 4.1% of victims were children (17 years and under) of whom a large majority are teenage boys,” he said.

Bruce said South Africa had made important advances in addressing violence against women.

“But it is clear that there is a similar problem with violence against men.

There needs to be a more holistic approach to addressing violence in South Africa. South African society should mobilise against all forms of violence,” he said.

The Mercury