DURBAN - The crime statistics for 2017/18 revealed that 2 930 women were murdered. This is equivalent to one murder every three hours.
And half of the victims were murdered by men with whom they had a close relationship.
Last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that South Africa was one of “the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman”.
Over the past week, there has been a surge in gender-based violence against women in South Africa.
In particular, three incidents have stood out:
- On June 2, Danielle Maistry, 20, a final year business administration student from Durban, was beaten almost to death during an alleged argument. She is currently in the intensive care unit of a hospital with a brain bleed. Her partner, Ryle Steenkamp, 37, allegedly held her hostage in his Pinetown home until the police rescued her.
- On June 6, Naledi Phangindawo, 25, a mother of three from Mossel Bay, Cape Town, was hacked and stabbed to death with an axe, allegedly by her partner, when she tried to end their relationship. Her partner, 34, is also the father of her children.
- On June 8, Tshegofatso Pule, 28, who was eight months pregnant and lived in Meadowlands, Johannesburg, was found with stab wounds and hanged from a tree in Roodepoort.
The images of Maistry’s assault went viral on social media to create awareness. Social media users voiced their anger and frustration at the fact that these women were attacked at the prime of their lives by the people who were meant to protect and love them.
On Facebook, on June 8, a user posted the following question to share similar experiences: For women, what’s the worst experience you’ve had with a man? Numerous women replied:
“I’ve been beaten simply because I spoke to him pointing my finger in his face.”
“I got into a physical altercation with a man who got upset that we wouldn’t say ‘Hi’. He swung his fists at us. Threw bricks. It was bad.”
“A guy forced himself on me after saying no several times.”
As a eulogy to these women, social media has been trending with these hashtags: #JusticeForDanielle; #JusticeForNaledi and #JusticeForTshego.
Photographs of them were shared as a tribute, portraying them as young, beautiful and determined women full of potential. People acknowledged the lives of those lost. They also posted words of encouragement to all the victims of abuse and motivated them to empower themselves.
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the Minister of Women and Youth, said: “We should never allow gender-based violence to become a norm in our communities. How many more women, young girls and children must live with this constant fear of being attacked and violated? Women should not have to protect themselves from men. They have the right to feel safe.”
The Domestic Violence Act No 116 of 1998 and Criminal Law (Sexual Offence and Related Matters) Act No 32 of 2007 both protect women against all forms of violence. As a society, we should stand together to empower all women with this knowledge and motivate them to take a stand against abuse.
“Violence against women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal, equality cannot come eventually. It’s something we must fight for now!” – Samantha Power
(Velisa Madasamy, Chatsworth)