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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid