#TheTotalShutdown march against gender violence in Cape Town on Wednesday. Picture:Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA)
While South Africa boasts many achievements, including its constitution, the country still has a long way to go when it comes to recognising and protecting the rights of women and those who break gender stereotypes.

According to Africa Check, a woman was murdered every four hours in South Africa between April and December 2016. More than half of them were killed by their intimate partners - boyfriends, fiancés and husbands.

For gender activist Funeka Soldaat, who started a blog and the organisation Free Gender after the murder of a 19-year-old lesbian in 2006, a huge mindshift in how the different genders are perceived and treated was still needed.

“To change people’s attitudes towards members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community is an ongoing struggle.

“Many lesbians have been killed over the past few years. And, although there have been convictions, in some instances, the perpetrators have yet to be held accountable,” Soldaat said.

The names of lesbians who were killed in hate crimes or who have survived various forms of violence tumble out of her mouth: Zoliswa Nkonyana, Nontsikelelo Tyatyeka, Noxolo Klaas and Pumeza Nkolonzi.

Soldaat said that LGBTI people were still at the receiving end of negative attitudes, not only from the public, but also from those who enforce the laws meant to protect them.

“We have done a lot of work with the police and, in Khayelitsha, we have seen a great change in how they treat those who lay charges. But in other areas, there’s still more work to be done.”

She said in some cultures, lesbians were raped to “correct” them.

“You rape us, you kill, but you don’t change anything about who we are,” she added.

This week, activists and organisations called for a #TotalShutdown, mobilising thousands of women across all provinces to protest against gender-based violence.

They also called on the government to take more decisive action.

According to the SA Medical Research Council’s gender and health research unit, the incidence of rape here was higher than in other countries and was driven by a violent political history, as well as structural and gender inequality.

Research has shown that people who were abused as children had hostile attitudes to women or felt inadequate in male-female relationships were more likely to rape.

Population research in South Africa has found that nearly one in 10 men have been involved in a gang rape.

Among the motives for rape were wanting to humiliate, degrade or punish the victim.

A 2016 study found that of the rape cases reported, police investigation and documentation was deficient in many instances.

It also found that lack of resources hampered police from doing their job and that some had conservative gender attitudes and supported rape myths.

“Such negative attitudes were more common among older and longer-serving male officers,” it said.

The report recommended that effective training, which addressed rape myths and gender attitudes, was needed to empower officers to carry out their duties more effectively and in a victim-friendly manner.