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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid