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Key findings
  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of South Africans believe that GBV increased “somewhat” or “a lot” over the past year.
  • More than seven in 10 (72%) say that domestic violence is a criminal matter requiring the involvement of law enforcement agencies, while just 26% see it as a private matter to be handled within the family.
  • Perceptions of domestic violence as a criminal matter are more common among women (75%) than among men (68%) and increase with respondents’ level of education and economic status.
  • Alcohol abuse (25%), drug abuse (20%), and unemployment (16%) are most widely seen as the main cause of domestic violence in South Africa.
  • Women are somewhat more likely than men to report feeling unsafe walking in their neighbourhood and fearing crime in their home.

In June 2020, the body of 28-year-old Tshegofatso Pule, who was eight months pregnant, was found stabbed and hanging from a tree outside Johannesburg (News24, 2020).

The brutality of the murder shocked the nation. But the crime was one of many.

South Africa suffers from exceptionally high levels of gender-based violence (GBV). One in every four South African women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes, and a woman is murdered every three hours in the country (Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, 2017, 2019; Africa Check, 2020).

Lockdown measures intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 may have exacerbated this crisis, leaving many women and girls vulnerable at home and unable to access help from organizations fighting GBV (Amnesty International, 2021).

During the first three weeks of the lockdown in April 2020, the government’s GBV Command Centre received more than 120,000 calls from victims of violence (Global Risk Insights, 2021), and news of gender-based violence cases frequently dominated both traditional and social media.

The South African Police Service (2020) reported 53,293 sexual offenses between April 2019 and March 2020, an average of 146 per day and a 2% increase from the previous year. A majority (42,289) were rape cases. The number of actual cases is almost certainly higher, as sexual violence often goes unreported (Global Risk Insights, 2021; Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, 2017).

The most recent national Afrobarometer survey indicates that most South Africans believe that GBV in the country has increased over the past year, and they cite alcohol and drug abuse and unemployment as major factors contributing to this crisis. Women report feeling less safe than men at home and in their neighbourhood.

Most South Africans say that domestic violence is a legal matter that requires the involvement of law enforcement, rather than a personal affair that should be handled within the family.

Dominique Dryding

Dominique is the capacity building manager (basic track)

Asafika Mpako

Asafika is the communications coordinator for Southern Africa