While COVID-19 restrictions continue to be relaxed around the world, South Africa is beginning to experience a new pandemic, as femicide rates have spiked in recent weeks. According to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, twenty-one women and children have been murdered during that time frame. He referred to the increase of femicides as “another pandemic that is raging in our country.
A statement from Ramaphosa also revealed that over 50% of women in South Africa have been victims of violence at the hands of a person that they are in a relationship with.
The continued killing of women in South Africa has sparked several protests, including an online movement, driven by the hashtag #StopKillingWomen.
On Wednesday (June 17), Pamaphosa stated:
“At a time when the pandemic has left us all feeling vulnerable and uncertain, violence is being unleashed on women and children with a brutality that defies comprehension. These rapists and killers walk among us … They are our fathers, our brothers, our sons, and our friends; violent men with utterly no regard for the sanctity of human life.”
Reports suggest that the recent increase in killing women in South Africa is linked to the country’s move to lift its COVID-19 restrictions. When the country’s government declared a state of disaster amid the coronavirus, South Africa prohibited the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.
They believed that banning substances would reduce domestic violence within the country. For some time, it worked. But, once the ban on alcohol was lifted, it “ushered an unwanted surge in reported deaths,” according to the South African Government News Agency.
South Africa has the highest rates of intimate partner violence in the world. Reports state that in South Africa, a woman is murdered every three hours. CGTN (China Global Television Network) mentioned that the country’s 1996 constitution is persistently clear about gender equality, but violence against South African women continues to be a serious issue.
Lebogang Thema, 25, a fashion buyer living in Cape Town, states that she is “always conscious” of gender-based violence.
“Every conversation I have with a man I record in my head so that if he does something, then I can relay the story back to whoever I need to,” she said. “You have to be conscious of what you say, how you say it so that you prepare for retelling the story too.”
“There’s no way of running away from it because if they haven’t done it to you, they’ve enabled it in someone else.”
Earlier this year, a widespread guideline to fight against gender-based violence revealed that more than 52,000 sexual offenses and almost 42,000 rapes were reported to the authorities In 2019.
Nomsa Thobane, a trainee lawyer from Pretoria, believes that even the simplest things can be dangerous for a woman in South Africa.
“I feel threatened by [violence against women]…. Being in a lift with a group of men is dangerous; walking alone at night is dangerous – or even during the day. Simple things like taking public transport can be stressful,” she said.
“What scares me the most is that I could be murdered by any man, anywhere, anytime.”