Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

South African women's fury at gender-based attacks spills onto the streets

Demonstrators gather outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre during a protest against gender based violence, at the World Economic Forum on Africa, in Cape Town, South Africa, September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Demonstrators gather outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre during a protest against gender-based violence Image: REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

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South Africa

This article is part of: World Economic Forum on Africa

Protests have erupted across South Africa against gender-based violence in the country. People have taken to the streets to voice their anger that not enough is being done to protect women.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the parliament in Cape Town, with others meeting outside the convention centre where the World Economic Forum on Africa (#AF19) is taking place in the city. Protesters are using the hashtag #AmINext.

They're calling for greater protection for women against sexual abuse and justice for victims, after the rape and murder of a 19-year-old student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, triggered the protests.

Femicide and gender-based violence

Nearly 3,000 women were killed in South Africa in 2017/18, according to the South African Police Service. That puts the murder rate for adult women at nearly 15.2 per 100,000, fact-checking organisation Africa Check calculated.

The latest internationally comparable figures from the World Health Organization take us back to 2016, when the murder rate was 12.5 per 100,000 women and girls. This put South Africa at the fourth-worst position out of 183 countries in that year.

Violence against women a problem that's far from unique to South Africa, though.

Globally, it's estimated more than a third of women have experienced some form of violence from a non-partner. Even more shockingly, some national studies suggest up to 70% of women have experienced violence from an intimate partner.

Within Africa, nearly half (45.6%) of women and girls over 15 have experienced physical or sexual violence according to this report.

Image: BBC

“We need to call a crime a crime. FGM (female genital mutilation), violence against women, marital rape, widowhood practices are all widely accepted in African societies. Where there are laws, they’re designed to bark, not bite. The only way to change this is by bringing it out into the open and talking about it,” said Akudo Anyanwu, an Associate Dean at Johns Hopkins University who is attending #AF19 to speak about violence against women.

As well as defeating violence, African women needed to force changes in areas such as inheritance rights and access to education, Anyanwu said.

"We are a far cry with the challenge faced in the West around equal pay: Africa is not even at the start line yet”

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