SOUTH AFRICA’S femicide rate is five times higher than the global average
Former Soweto community radio presenter Donald “Donald Duck” Sebolai was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday for murdering his girlfriend, Rachel “Dolly” Tshabalala.
Oscar Pistorius faces a potential jail sentence next month after his Constitutional Court bid to overturn his conviction for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, failed on Thursday.
It is hoped the national and international attention drawn by the two cases would help other victims of violence.
It is important to note that as Pistorius faces the high court in Pretoria on April 18 as a convicted murderer and a possible 15-year jail sentence, on average, three women are killed by an intimate partner, former or current, in South Africa every day.
That is, one woman is killed every eight hours, making South Africa’s femicide rate five times higher than the global average.
Hence the conviction and sentencing of the two high-profile murderers is not a coincidence. In South Africa, more than 1 000 women are killed by an intimate partner each year. In fact, intimate partner femicide , which is the most serious form of domestic violence, is the leading cause of the murder of women.
A 2009 Medical Research Council study showed the vast majority of female homicides went unpunished, with less than 38 percent of intimate-partner femicides leading to conviction in less than two years.
Consequently, far too many men believe they can commit violence with impunity, and even get away with murder.
Tshabalala and Steenkamp’s deaths are tragic, as are the deaths of the more than 1 000 women who have been or will be killed in South Africa this year, but the global media attention on these trials have grabbed the attention of the government and the public.
In December, the UN’s special rapporteur on the causes of violence against women in South Africa, Dubravka Åimonovic, revealed that such behaviour was almost accepted as normal in the country. She said in her report deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes made violence against women and children an almost accepted phenomenon.
Åimonovic, who is from Croatia, was appointed special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences by the UN Human Rights Council in June.
She was charged with recommending measures at national, regional and international level to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences.
During the visit to South Africa she held discussions with members of the government, civil society representatives and other stakeholders in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town and East London.
She commended measures taken by the government through the constitution, which guarantees human rights for all South Africans.
Åimonovic said she was encouraged by South Africa’s laws, such as the Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Act, which tackles violence and discrimination against women, but she warned implementation was the biggest challenge.
She recommended the establishment of a Femicide Watch, which would release a report every year on November 25, detailing the number of gender-related killings per year, desegregated by age and sex of the perpetrators, as well as the relationship between perpetrator and victim, among other aspects.
There is an urgent need to focus on prevention, she said.
“In order to do so, there is a need to investigate research and understand the complex dynamics of gender-based violence in South Africa, said Åimonovic.
All parts of society, in particular disadvantaged groups, need to be well informed on their rights on all steps of the process from reporting the crime to the prosecution and adjudication of their case.
“A final and more comprehensive report will be released in June 2016.”
Meanwhile, in another high-profile case, ANC Youth League official Patrick Wisani, accused of beating his girlfriend to death with a sjambok, has been served with an indictment transferring his case to the high court.
He faces a murder charge for allegedly killing Nosipho Mandleleni in September last year at the home they shared in Yeoville, Johannesburg.