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Intimate partner femicide is declining in SA: study

Research by the SA Medical Research Council has found the rate of intimate femicide has declined in SA. File image.
Research by the SA Medical Research Council has found the rate of intimate femicide has declined in SA. File image.
Image: Alon Skuy

While SA is ranked among countries with the highest rate of femicide in the world, the country has seen a decline in intimate partner femicide cases.

Non-intimate partner femicide has remained unchanged since 2009.

This is according to the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC), which on Tuesday released its third national femicide study.

The study examined medical and police investigation data from a random sample of 81 urban and rural settings across the country in 2017 and compared results with the 1999 and 2009 studies.

“The 2017 results showed 2,407 women aged 14 and above were murdered in SA, of which 1,029 were murdered by an intimate partner. The study found the rate of intimate partner femicide declined from 8.8/100,000 population in 1999 to 4.8/100,000 population,” said the SAMRC.

Prof Naeemah Abrahams, director of the SAMRC’s gender and health research unit, who led the study as principal investigator, said the findings were an indication the country was starting to reap the benefits of many years of activism by women and community-based organisations, and from government’s policy and practice.

However, “we still have an enormous problem of femicide in our country with three women killed per day by an intimate partner”.

The 2017 study pointed to an increase in missing information related to police investigations, highlighting missing dockets increased from 1.6% in 2009 to 9.1% in 2017.

It also found there was an increase in cases where the perpetrators were not identified during investigations.

“These findings are indicative of a decline in the quality of police investigations of femicide cases.

“It is critical femicide receives the attention it needs so perpetrators who murder women are held accountable and punished for this crime against women”, said Abrahams.

SAMRC president and CEO Prof Glenda Gray said though the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) was far from over, the finding that the rate of femicide had declined was important and exciting.

“For almost 30 years the SAMRC, through its gender and health research unit, has been responsive to GBV and femicide, leading research and developing and testing interventions to prevent and respond to the scourge,” Gray said.

Gun Free SA (GFSA) lauded the SAMRC findings, saying they showed the importance of gun control.

“The latest MRC study is good news. It shows we have halved femicide in SA over the past 18 years. It also tells us that to further protect women and girls, we need a strong gun law that is well enforced with zero tolerance for corruption and fraud. This is one of the reasons GFSA supports proposed amendments to strengthen SA’s gun law: it will help save lives,” said Adèle Kirsten, director of GFSA.

However, GFSA noted that from 2009 gun femicide increased by almost 5% (from 17.3% in 2009 to 21.8% in 2017).

“Unpacking this increase shows it is due to an 8% rise in non-intimate firearm femicide (from 17.1% in 2009 to 25.3% in 2017), with intimate-firearm femicide increasing slightly (from 17.4% in 2009 to 18.2% in 2017). 

“While more research is needed to understand why there is this difference, the ready availability of guns in SA as a result of breakdowns in firearms control management means more women and girls are shot dead. Under-resourcing, poor planning and criminality involving fraud, corruption and theft dating to 2010/11 have made guns more available,” the organisation said.

Kirsten called on government to take urgent action to mop up the existing pool of firearms in SA, especially illegal guns.

“Mop ups will only be effective if we close the taps leaking illegal guns into our communities. The biggest tap is legal guns held by the state and civilians, which means we have to urgently strengthen controls over legal guns and ammunition to stop them leaking into the illegal pool,” she said.


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