A woman walking alone in the streets could fall victim to sexual harassment and violence. File picture: African News Agency
During this year's 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women and Children, Independent Media continues our #DontLookAway campaign by shining a spotlight on sexual harassment. 

Women and girls are not free to walk around their neighbourhoods because of the prevalence of gender-based violence in the country.

A woman walking alone in the streets could fall victim to various types of sexual harassment and violence, and this affects the degree of freedom a woman has in various aspects of her life.

“South African women are on ‘perpetual guard’ - on high alert when in public - on heightened vigilance when at home.

“Women have become conditioned to test the ‘safety concerns’ when going about their daily business. Is it safe to park the car here? Is it safe to walk in the park? Will I get mugged en route to my meeting if I take a shortcut?

“The reality for women in South Africa is this: our harrowing statistics prove that it is not safe for women,” said self-defence practitioner Sanette Smit, who is author of The South African Woman’s Guide to Self Defence.

Women and young girls being targeted for rape in South Africa is a serious issue. According to the 2016/17 victims of crime statistics, 250 out of every 100000 women are victims of sexual offences.

In comparison, the number of men is 120 out of every 100 000.

According to the 2016/17 police statistics, 80% of the sexual offences reported were rape and with Statistics SA, the figures show 68.5% of the victims of sexual offences were women.

The Stats SA: Crime against women in SA report shows 138 of 100000 women are raped and this is considered the highest figure in the world.

“There is hardly safety for women in South Africa. It’s outright dangerous to be a woman in South Africa. Other countries do not have the scourge at this high level. There seems to be a culture of impunity and disrespect for women.

“They are not treated as equals and this is a serious problem. We need more education and more education about the benefit of gender equity for the society,” said political analyst Ralph Mathekga.

According to AfricaCheck, the SAPS recorded 124526 cases of rape in the three years from 2014/15 to 2016/17.

In 50988 of the cases, the victims were aged 18 or younger. This accounted for 41% of all rapes recorded in the country over the three years.

“We generally believe a lack of respect for women leads to sexual harassment/violence - it’s become the norm among disrespectful perpetrators and female victims have reached a point of saturation. Enough is enough,” said Smit.

How to show your support:

* Take the pledge against sexual harassment

* Join and like Be The Change Mzansi on Facebook. 

* Follow the Don't Look Away campaign on IOL

* Follow us on the Facebook pages of Daily NewsCape Argus and The Star.