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While worldwide lockdowns in the Corona pandemic have forced many women and girls to be locked inside with violent perpetrators, recent events in countries such as South Africa remind us of the devastating effects of eased restrictions as well. When South Africa was in lockdown, the reported violence decreased. With the recent ease of restrictions, violence against women and girls spiked as a direct result. The lifted ban on the sale of alcohol is directly linked to recent cases of gender-based violence with serious injury or death as outcome[1].

One case involves a 28-year old woman, eight months pregnant at the time, who was found dead, stabbed in the chest and hanging from a tree. No arrests have been made yet. Another one involves a 25-year old woman who was found stabbed to death in a harbor city. One suspect, believed to have been her partner, is now in police custody. In yet another case a young woman was found dead, dumped under a tree in Johannesburg[2]. Due to the stigmatization that victims of gender-based violence face and the culture of impunity that these crimes are surrounded by, many cases remain unreported. Consequently, we can expect the actual number of cases to be much higher.  

In South Africa a woman is murdered every three hours[3]. Fifty percent of these crimes are committed by a close relative. According to the South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, the recent surge in violence against women marks ‘a dark and shameful week’ for his country[4]. However, already in September 2019, citizens gathered outside South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town and demanded the President to take action amid the growing crisis of violence against women[5]. While the surge in recent cases indeed represents a dark and shameful week in South Africa’s history signaling a growing crisis, it is only a part of a much broader problematic culture. A culture that tears apart societies, and which is rooted in harmful practices, negative masculinity norms, impunity for sexual crimes and a culture of silence around these crimes. National leaders and the international community have a responsibility to address and combat the root causes to gender-based violence not only today or this week, but every day.

Maria Salenstedt, Board trainee 2020, Operation 1325.

#JusticeforNaledi #JusticeforSanelisiwe #SouthAfrica #stopgenderbasedviolence

[1] https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-06-20/South-Africa-s-femicide-rate-spikes-as-coronavirus-lockdown-lifts-RskMmKKcus/index.html

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-53040513

[3] https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/3-hours-woman-murdered-south-africa-190905103533183.html

[4] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-53040513

[5] https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/3-hours-woman-murdered-south-africa-190905103533183.html