Thousands of Capetonians descended on Parliament on Thursday to voice their disapproval at the government’s inability to combat gender-based violence. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

Durban - Human rights' group Amnesty International said on Thursday that gender-based violence in South Africa had reached "alarming levels". 

The organisation's executive director for South Africa, Shenilla Mohamed, made the statement in response to a speech given earlier in the day by president Cyril Ramaphosa in which he addressed the country's gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide rates, following a spate of brutal incidents that left many in the country incensed. 

“Gender-based violence has reached undeniably alarming levels in South Africa. It is absolutely unacceptable that women feel they have to watch what they wear in public and be careful about where they are seen socialising, for fear that they may face violent reprisals including rape or even death," said Mohamed. 

“The time for sloganeering and politicking has passed. President Cyril Ramaphosa must now translate into action his vow that 'enough is enough'. It’s nothing short of a national emergency that femicide and rape rates are increasing countrywide, and the government must act decisively to tackle these issues."

According to Mohamed, decisive action would entail appropriate training for police officers, to enable them to "sensitively and objectively" investigate incidents of GBV and domestic violence.  

"In order to ensure alleged offenders are brought to justice, the government must also ensure that gender-based violence is taken seriously at every level of the justice system, including by challenging discriminatory stereotypes about victims and survivors.

“However, calls to bring back the death penalty, by some in society, are misguided and will not solve this problem. The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence not a solution to it, and there is no credible evidence that it has a greater deterrent effect on crime than a prison term. 

"The government would do better to channel its resources to ensure the effective administration of justice through proper investigations into incidents of gender-based violence and fair trials for those accused of the crimes.”

Hundreds of protestors gathered outside parliament in Cape Town on Thursday to register their voices against gender-based violence, after a University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana was found dead this week after she went missing. 

39 633 rapes and 6 253 sexual assaults were reported in South Africa in 2017. 

African News Agency (ANA)