Cape Town leads country in sexual violence against women

Women place white flowers outside parliament during a demonstration in Cape Town. South Africa has a high incidence of rape with more than 50 000 reported per year.
Women place white flowers outside parliament during a demonstration in Cape Town. South Africa has a high incidence of rape with more than 50 000 reported per year.

Incidents of femicide and sexual homicide in Cape Town are higher than previously reported and gun violence and alcohol abuse are persistent problems.

A study presented at the International Conference for Preventing Violence in Cape Town on Friday found that while young and elderly females are not spared when it comes to sexual homicide, women between the ages of 18 and 40 are most at risk.

The study - Violence against women: epidemiology and pathology of femicides and suspected sexual homicides in Cape Town: a 10-year follow-up study - by Itumeleng Molefe, showed an average femicide incidence rate of 12.4 per 100 000 females in Cape Town.

According to Molefe, this equates to half of the total South African national incidents for 1999, the 2009 national rate and almost five times the global average.

"This is a problem that is universal and South Africa is by no means immune.

"South African media plays a very good role in reminding us every day that female homicides (femicides) are a huge problem," she said.

Molefe's research period spanned between 2000 and 2009. Data was collected from autopsy reports of female bodies admitted at Salt River Forensic Pathology Laboratory in Cape Town during this period.

"What's interesting is that since 1999, the Western Cape has persistently shown very high rates of serious crime and definitely murder continues to be quite prevalent in the province compared to the rest of the country.

"I reviewed a total record of 6 231 female homicides and out of that, I felt just over 1 000 could be included into my study.

"The final study sample is what I scrutinised in greater detail to establish if there was an element of fatal sexual violence to the case," Molefe said.

"What I found, of the cases which were included in my study, which averaged to about 100 per year, is that the incidents decreased from 18.3 per 100 000 females to 10.2 per 100 000 females.

"But the incidents of suspected-rape-homicide, however, were a little bit different, in that 19.9% of cases were suspected to have an element of sexual violence," she added.

Molefe's research also noted that previous studies showed that sexual homicide was associated with the presence of multiple injuries in the cause of deaths.

"In terms of my study, there's not very little difference in terms of the areas where there the injuries are inflicted.

"So most of them are still dying from head injuries. They also showed lots of facial injuries as well as neck and thoracic injuries.

"While a non-sexual violence femicide victim would die from a gunshot wound, femicides where an element of sexual violence is present, asphyxiation is the predominant cause of death," she said.

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