Follow us on:   

South Africa, India Shamed: Endless tide of Gender Based Violence
December 30, 2014, 9:48 am

On December 16, 2012 Jyoti Singh Pandey, a 23-year-old woman, was gang raped and killed in New Dehli, India.

Less than two months later, 17-year-old Anene Booysen was gang raped, disemboweled and left to die in a small town in South Africa.

The perpetrators of these violent and horrific crimes discarded the victims’ bodies like the objects they viewed them to be.

Singh Pandey’s murder, which occurred on a private chartered bus, both shocked and horrified Indian society.

But close to the second anniversary of that brutal assault came the news a few weeks ago of the rape of another woman in the capital New Delhi by the driver of an Uber cab.

There is a global pandemic of violence against women but it is the brutality of the violence in South Africa and India that is difficult to fathom.

Why do men rape and brutalize women with impunity, and why are these two countries struggling to curb the gender-based violence in the face of an outcry by their citizens?

"Violence against women is often linked to the their low status in certain societies that are “hyper patriarchal”, such as South Africa and India, where cultural norms and customs are often used as a justification for violence against women," writes Prof. Gouws [Xinhua]

“Violence against women is often linked to the their low status in certain societies that are “hyper patriarchal”, such as South Africa and India, where cultural norms and customs are often used as a justification for violence against women,” writes Prof. Gouws [Xinhua]

In India, the protests following Singh Pandey’s murder emphasized the desire for action to bring an end to gender-based violence (GBV).

In South Africa, there was moral outrage but the protests were less drawn out and more muted; there are those who would argue that such demonstrations of anger are less vigorous because violence against women here has become so normalized.

The outcome of the Oscar Pistorius trial for the murder of his girlfriend (12 days after Anene Booysen’s death) as well as the Shrien Diwani homicide case has contributed to the belief that there is no justice for women victims of violence.

Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend behind a closed bathroom door, mistaking her for an intruder.

Dewani , a British business man, is alleged to have masterminded a contract killing of his wife during their honeymoon in South Africa, involving three South African men.

Pistorius got a five-year sentence for manslaughter and Dewani walked free for a lack of concrete evidence linking him to the murder.

In South Africa, the Domestic Violence Act – and the Sexual Offenses Act – is supposed to protect women from violence, yet the unabated continuation of GBV shows that the law cannot be the only solution to violence.

Political will plays a critical role in a government’s seriousness to combat GBV.

After Anene Booysen’s death, a National Council on Gender Based Violence was established to take the fight against violence forward. At the end of 2014 it is still not up and running. Why not?

One positive outcome of the Booysen case was the reintroduction of the Sexual Offenses Courts dedicated to deal with GBV, which previously had a high conviction rate (up to 70 per cent).

At one point, there were 70 sexual offenses courts, but they were systematically closed down.

In other courts, the conviction rate for the 64,514 sexual assaults as reported by South African Police Services was 6.97 per cent in 2012-13.

Counting the costs

Interpersonal violence (that includes domestic violence, sexual assault and rape) incurs serious costs for the state, and there is benefit if these are calculated and taken into consideration.

It is only in the past two years that researchers in South Africa have started to do this calculation.

A 2014 study carried out by the research unit in parliament has shown that the costs in 2012-2013 for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development amounted to R106,855,823 ($9.2 million); for the Police Service it was R40,604,988 ($3.5 million).

Costs for medical and forensic services were R14,895,068 ($1.3 million) and the estimated cost of protection orders was R70,122,566 ($6.3 million) in the Western Cape alone.

In September 2014, KPMG, the international financial services consulting firm, released a report on violence against women in South Africa.

The report estimated an economic loss of between R28.4 billion ($2.5 billion) and R42.4 billion ($3.66 billion) in 2012-2013.

Since the South African state does not keep disaggregated data on the gender based violence, these figures can only be considered ‘a partial or minimum estimate’ of the actual costs and are most probably an underestimate.

File photo of activists campaigning for  justice for women and rape survivors outside a Cape Town High Court, South Africa [AP]

File photo of activists campaigning for justice for women and rape survivors outside a Cape Town High Court, South Africa [AP]

When money is spent to deal with the fallout of violence there is often a lack of funding for prevention. In South Africa, many shelters for domestic violence that are a lifeline for victims have closed due to a lack of sufficient government funding.

The bulk of the costs are instead carried by civil society organizations, doing the work that government should be doing.

Hyper patriarchal norms

Counting the costs helps to move the debate about GBV away from thinking about it as only a social or moral ill, with ill-conceived solutions such as the “back to family values” approach, when the home is often the most dangerous place for women.

Violence against women is often linked to their low status in certain societies that are “hyper patriarchal”, such as South Africa and India, where cultural norms and customs are often used as a justification for violence against women.

In South Africa, “corrective rape” of lesbian women to change their sexual orientation is commonplace.

Lesbian women have been struggling to get justice.

Earlier in October, India’s Human Rights Commission sought an investigation from the government about the reported rape of five women, members of India’s lowest dalit “untouchable” caste, at gunpoint by upper caste men in one of India’s poorest states Bihar.

Controversial comments from Indian ministers and politicians sparked a huge controversy, and revealed reinforced patriarchal justifications for violence against women.

The trend continued this year with the Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley saying in August that “One small incident of rape in Delhi, advertised the world over, is enough to cost us billions of dollars in terms of lower tourism.”

An Indian state Chief Minister went a step further and blamed women for India’s rising number of rapes.

“If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way,” said Manohar Khattar during an election campaign.

In a study commissioned by the Heinrich Böhl Foundation (the German Green Political Party Foundation’s office in Cape Town) investigating GBV in South Africa and India, the authors conclude that a number of important lessons are learnt from violence against women.

Firstly, addressing sexual violence is a political issue that has to simultaneously be addressed with structural issues that cause gender inequality. Therefore, sexual violence is both a symptom and an instrument of women’s oppression.

Secondly, what is needed is a strategic advocacy that challenges the state to prioritise sexual violence in its policy and budgetary agendas.

Thirdly, violent masculinities need to be prioritized for political intervention.

When gender-based violence is viewed as a political problem, intervention becomes a necessity against an underlying social order which already prevents women from exercising agency over their own sexuality.

Violence is used as a way to reinforce this social order.

It means multi-pronged approaches in the political, social and legal arenas – as well as addressing cultural norms that diminish women’s status in society – must be taken.

There is no quick fix solution.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the publisher's editorial policy.

3 Responses to South Africa, India Shamed: Endless tide of Gender Based Violence

  1. Bill Reply

    December 30, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks for the post. Is there data available for the rates of violence against men compared to violence against women in India and South Africa?

  2. sanket Reply

    January 4, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    India rape percentage is 2%. Just because there are cases of rape in India doesn’t mean that we don’t treat women properly. All the European and american and white countries have more rape percentage than India. Why don’t you first look at the problems in your household? I know, you people want to show developing countries in bad light, to defame their culture and to make them self loathing.

  3. Priya Reply

    March 21, 2015 at 5:32 am

    Yes, Madam, Amanda Gouws first look at problems in the so called civilized West. Everyone in US needs to carry guns to protect themselves. Police shoot citizens randomly. World over USA is interfering in affairs of other countries on false pretexts. European Union is in mess. Percentage of rapes in India is 2% and even if unreported rapes are considered it still will not cross 8%. The Western countries are far ahead in rapes if percentage is considered. Handle your teen pregnancies, drug addicts problems first. We Indians are able to take care of our problems and will solve them. You need not meddle with us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Anti-Spam * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.