The South African government has declared gender-based violence a national crisis.
According to a new government report, a woman is murdered every three hours in South Africa, and many are assaulted and raped before their death. The women of South Africa recently protested against the gender-based violence that seems to be spinning out of control.
Nomakhosazana Xaba, in her late 20s, says this violence now resembles a country at war against its women.
“Enough it’s enough. A lot has been said, but still there is no changes,” Xaba said. “It’s been years. We are brutally victimized each and every day, every second. Am I next? It’s fearing to live.”
The latest wave of outrage was sparked by the recent murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana. The 19-year-old University of Cape Town student was raped and killed inside a post office by an employee while she was trying to collect a parcel.
The latest crime statistics released by the Department of Police reveal the depth of the crisis: Nearly 3,000 women were murdered between April 2018 and March of this year. This translates to seven per day.
The murder rate for South African men is also high, at 50 per day. However, many of the female victims are brutally assaulted and raped before being murdered. In many cases, their bodies are disposed of in the bush or in shallow graves, or burned beyond recognition.
Refilwe Mugagabe has this message to men in South Africa: “Instead of you taking a life or instead of you raping a woman, seek help. Do not allow it to grow to a point where you no longer see me as a human being, and you no longer value my life and you rape me and you kill me.”
The women called on government and the private sector to provide funds to fight the scourge. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently convened an urgent joint session of parliament to find a solution to gender-based violence.
The action plan he presented includes setting up a $68 million fund, beefing up the criminal justice system, improving the legal and policy framework around sexual offenses and other forms of gender-based violence, and empowering women economically.
“Those who are found guilty of such crimes should not be eligible for parole,” Ramaphosa said. “And if sentenced to a life sentence, this must just mean what it is, life in prison.”
Mbuyiselo Botha, a gender violence expert and member of the Commission for Gender Equality, agrees.
“There are lots of women out there who still feel that the police have no clue about what domestic violence is, sexual violence is, sexual offenses act is,” Botha said. “So, these are the places that you can do immediately something about it.”
These women say that whatever the government intends to do, they hope it will happen fast — before they also become a rape and murder statistic.