Femicides spark anger across SA
A spate of killings of women in South Africa has stoked a renewed public outcry about an issue that had been relegated by the coronavirus pandemic.
A week ago, the body of a 28-year-old pregnant woman was found hanging from a tree on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the commercial hub. On Sunday, the mutilated body of a 42-year-old, allegedly stabbed by her partner, was discovered in the capital, Pretoria.
On Monday, a man was due to appear in court in Cape Town after being arrested in connection with the murder of a 27-year-old woman and her seven-year-old daughter.
Cases of femicide have surged since the government on June 1 eased lockdown restrictions, including allowing the resumption of alcohol sales.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared gender-based violence a national crisis last year amid protests over the rape and murder at a post office of a 19-year-old University of Cape Town student. He’s vowed to develop a national strategy to fight the scourge, and established a $355 million fund to help deal with sex offenses and other forms of violence against women over the next five years.
In a weekly message to South Africans on Monday, Ramaphosa said he was “deeply disturbed” by the latest “shocking acts of inhumanity.”
“We must strengthen our justice system, ensuring that perpetrators are brought to book, bail and parole conditions are tightened and that those sentenced to life spend the rest of their lives behind bars,” he said.
Much of the criticism on social media targeted the South African police, whose members attended the funeral of 28-year-old Tshegofatso Pule to ensure physical-distancing rules were being enforced. The lifting of the nine-week ban on the sale of alcohol, seen as a contributing factor to domestic violence when many people are being forced to stay at home because of the pandemic, has also come under fire.
“It’s been a difficult time as people are trapped in their houses and alcohol is making things worse,” said Itumeleng Moloko, a counseling manager at People Opposing Women Abuse, a Johannesburg-based rights group. “Women are murdered every day. We’re hoping that the national plan will get things right.”
More than 52,000 sexual offenses were reported to the police in South Africa last year, as well as almost 42,000 rapes, according to the national plan to combat gender-based violence published earlier this year. The country ranks as one of the most violent in the world, with about 58 people murdered on average every day.