It is difficult to get reliable statistics on violence against women in South Africa. Although the number of reported cases is very high, many cases go unreported. The incidence of battery or domestic violence is particularly hard to measure because the police do not keep separate statistics on assault cases perpetrated by husbands or boyfriends.
Many women are still unaware of their rights when reporting abuse and even informed women traumatized by an assault are unlikely to be assertive and insist on their rights. Many women are afraid of further violence from the perpetrator if they attempt legal action. This is even more compounded by the introduction of the new Domestic Violence Act, which a lot of women have not yet grasped. The challenge exists for the Act, including the regulations to be made an accessible form of legislation to benefit and protect women in all areas of their lives. Effective implementation of the Act also needs to be ensured, for effective legal preventative measures (protection order) and police escorts to abused women.
The gendered nature of domestic violence has unfortunately also seen an increase in the number of women being murdered by their intimate male partners. Lack of statistical information on this form of killing makes it very hard to measure the extent of the scourge but newspaper reports on this issue, leave little to one’s imagination. These killings demonstrate the culture of male violence against women and sexism that still pervades our society. Women have fought and succeeded in getting many basic rights yet in the private sphere of their homes, the inequality between men and women is still a battleground.
The Department of Justice estimates that 1 out of every four South African women are survivors of domestic violence. (450.311 Domestic Violence: Submission to the South African Law Commission in the Light of International and Constitutional Human Rights Jurisprudence Part 1, May 1997)
According to POWA 1 in every 6 women who die in Gauteng are killed by an intimate partner.
The Institute of Security Studies did a research project in 1999. They found that:
90% of the women interviewed had experienced emotional abuse: being humiliated in front of others was most commonly reported.
90% had also experienced physical abuse: being pushed or shoved and being slapped or hit were highlighted.
71% had experienced sexual abuse: attempts to kiss or touch followed by forced sexual intercourse occurred most often.
58% experienced economic abuse: money taken without consent was most common.
42.5% of women had experienced all forms of abuse.
60% of all cases of abuse were committed by partners, lovers or spouses.
-Emotional abuse-either as a category on its own or in combination with other types of abuse was referred to by 63% of women as being the most serious.
-According to a Medical Research Council study, young women are more subjected to assault (ranging from slapping to beating with objects and stabbing) and sexual coercion by partners and others.
All the above information is taken from POWA.
More statistics on Domestic Violence in South Africa and internationally are available from the Womens Net website on: http://womensnet.org.za/pvaw/understand/nicrostats.htm