Reeva Steenkamp, the model and law graduate shot and killed by Oscar Pistorius, was statistically just one of three women killed on Valentine’s Day by an intimate partner, according to a study on violence against women that damns South Africa as having “the highest rate ever reported in research anywhere in the world.”
It’s more than just murder
Newspaper editorials and talk radio shows are examining traditional chauvinistic attitudes, gun control laws and weaknesses in the police and court systems that allow many perpetrators to walk free — thus discouraging women from reporting. This week police disclosed that they do not have enough rape kits, needed to collect evidence.
“Of all the matrics (high school graduates) in your class, one third have been raped!” says a public education announcement on Talk Radio 702, referring to statistics that estimate more than 30 percent of girls have been raped by the time they are 18.
It seems there are few places for South African girls to be safe: Many are raped in their homes by a relative or family friend; many are raped at school, often by teachers; only a quarter are raped by someone they do not know.
In South Africa, statistics say someone gets raped every four minutes. Only 66,196 incidents were reported to police last year and their investigations led to only 4,500 convictions.
“If data for all violent assaults, rapes and other sexual assaults against women are taken into account, then approximately 200,000 adult women are reported as being attacked in South Africa every year,” Lerato Moloi of the South African Institute for Race Relations said. The real figure is considerably higher, she said, since most cases never are reported.
The rate of murders of women in South Africa is equally troubling.
A woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours in South Africa, a probable underestimate because no perpetrator is identified in 20 percent of killings, according to a study published in August and co-authored by Professor Rachel Jewkes of the South African Medical Research Council. That is double the rate of such murders in the United States, according to the report. The study was based on a sample of deceased females aged 14 years and older at national mortuaries, since police statistics do not separate the killings of women by partners from those by strangers.
In a related story, Mother Jones points out that gun ownership puts women at a greater risk.
- In 2010, nearly 6 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.
- A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 7 times if he has access to a gun.
- One study found that women in states with higher gun ownership rates were 4.9 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than women in states with lower gun ownership rates.