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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid