Violence Against Women in South Africa

State Response to Domestic Violence and Rape

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The new South African government has pledged to ensure women a full and equal role in every aspect of the economy and society. Yet South African women continue to face extraordinarily high levels of violence which prevent them from enjoying the rights they are guaranteed under the new dispensation. Domestic violence and sexual assault are pervasive and are directed almost exclusively against women. South African women’s organizations estimate that perhaps as many as one in every three women will be raped and that one in six women is in an abusive domestic relationship.South African women victims of violence continue to face a judicial and police system that routinely denies them redress. Women, regardless of race, complain of indifferent or hostile treatment from the criminal justice system; and black women in particular face lingering racial prejudice in their interactions with the authorities. Police are frequently ignorant of the laws protecting women from violence and, within the courts, judges often discount rape survivors’ testimony and give lenient sentences to rapists.

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