News / Africa

    Report: 90 Percent of South African Women Abused

    Elderly woman among thousands marching to government headquarters in festive re-enactment of famed anti-apartheid protest that addressed women's issues, Pretoria, August 2006.
    Elderly woman among thousands marching to government headquarters in festive re-enactment of famed anti-apartheid protest that addressed women's issues, Pretoria, August 2006.
    Anita Powell
    Marching on Pretoria's Union Buildings in protest of marginalization and mistreatment under apartheid in 1956, 20,000 women chanted a rallying cry proclaiming strength and determination, "Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo!" ("Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock!").
     
    Since then, women throughout the country have come a long way, except for one place: at home.
     
    South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Nov. 30, 2012.South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Nov. 30, 2012.
    x
    South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Nov. 30, 2012.
    South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Nov. 30, 2012.
    According to figures recently issued by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, ninety percent of South African women have experienced emotional and physical abuse; seventy-one percent have experienced sexual abuse; as many as five out of seven children are abused.
     
    The modern version of the rallying cry for equality is particularly apt given today's epidemic level of domestic abuse: "When you strike a woman, you strike a rock!"
     
    Having spent two years working at a shelter in Gauteng Province, social worker Marihet Infantino has been steeled by exposure to the front line of South Africa's battle againast domestic abuse.
     
    Regardless of her resolve, however, some cases cannot be forgotten. One involved Anne, a mother of two young girls. All three had been sexually and physically abused by Anne’s husband, who constantly husband tried to find them and even sent threatening letters through his lawyer.
     
    “Physically broken down, physically also abused," she says of Anne. "How this guy was able to take her down to nothing.... this lady, she cried, like, continuously.”
     
    Although Anne and her children escaped the abuse — a rarity — Infantino calls the result devastating. South Africa’s violent history — its patriarchal society and pervasive poverty — contribute to the prevalence of abuse. Infantino estimates that only two out 10 women who come to the shelter end up leaving their situations.
     
    “The insight that all these men have in their own behavior is nothing," she says. "There’s no insight. A lot of them don’t see that they have any role to play in the abuse, they don’t see any wrongdoing as well.”
     
    Trust Law poll
    Fortunately, the pattern of abuse is visible to some. South Africa this year ranked 16th place in a Trust Law poll ranking the best and worst G20 nations for women. India ranked last place in the poll, because of its trends of infanticide, child marriage and slavery. 
     
    Although South Africa's progressive constitution includes anti-abuse laws, legal researcher Mpiwa Mangwiro of Johannesburg's Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Center says documents do not always translate into action.
     
    "Much as we have the perfect legal instruments — we have our domestic violence act, our sexual offenses act, the national instructions — the challenge that we have is in implementation," she says, explaining that the government’s statistics may inaccurately low.
     
    In the past five months, says Mangwiro, her center has seen nearly 115 women, most of them for abuse cases.
     
    “It certainly hasn’t been getting any better," she says. "More and more cases are still being lost out at court, they're still not being prosecuted, there’s a lot of miscarriage of justice.”
     
    For women left vulnerable by laws that go unenforced, taking shelter from abusers may be the best they can do. While social workers such as Infantino cite a paucity of resources — she has made calls for more shelters, more policemen, more trained staff at hospitals and, above all, better education about abuse — Mangwiro says the advocacy center maintains a wealth of determination to triumph legally and morally over the abusers.
     
    “I would still tell them that the one thing they should never underestimate is the voice of women and the power of women," says Mangwiro.
     
    In other words: When you strike a woman, you strike a rock.

    You May Like

    Water Scarcity Could Push Conflict, Migration by 2050

    Warning comes in a new report from the World Bank titled "High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy"

    What Your First Name Says About Who You Support for President

    Bobby, Betty and Curtis tend to support Donald Trump while people named Juan, Liz or Mohammad are more likely to lean toward Hillary Clinton

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Spokes
    December 14, 2012 12:07 AM
    A concerning matter affecting everyone. However spare a thought too of the Zimbabwean people who have suffered and endured real trauma and sadness.Photographs of their plight
    could not be published

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora