Violence against South Africa’s women, children: verifying claims at a men’s summit

At a recent men’s summit, South Africa’s deputy president quoted several statistics on the violence suffered by women and children. In a fact-check in progress, we look at the first of five claims.

Men from organisations across South Africa came together for a summit in August 2018 to develop a “men’s charter” and a “men’s sector strategic plan for positive social change”.

Opening the Takuwani Riime men’s summit in KwaZulu-Natal, deputy president David Mabuza called on men to take stock of the role they play in South African society. Takuwani Riime is a Tshivenda expression meaning “Let us stand up together”.

“We have to talk as men about the pain we’ve inflicted on women and children,” Mabuza said.

Here we weigh up five claims Mabuza made about violence against South Africa’s women and children. (Note: We tried to get clarity on Mabuza’s sources from his spokesperson Thami Ngwenya, but at the time of publication our request was unanswered. We will update this report when he responds.)

Claim

“Our country’s femicide rate has been increasing over the last five years.”

Verdict

correct

The South African Police Service records the number of women murdered in the country. When this data is compared with population estimates, a murder rate can be calculated.

The most recent data available shows that in the 2017/18 financial year, 15.2 out of every 100,000 women were victims of murder.

This is the highest the rate has been in the past five years and represents a 16% increase over the period.

South Africa’s femicide rate
Woman 18+ murdered Femicide rate/100,000
2013/14 2,354 13.1
2014/15 2,234 12.2
2015/16 2,416 13.0
2016/17 2,639 14.0
2017/18 2,930 15.2

Source: South African Police Service and Statistics South Africa

Claim

One in five women experience physical violence from an intimate partner.

Verdict

incorrect

The most recent research on violence against women in South Africa is the country’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey.

It’s a nationally representative household survey, used in a number of countries around the world. It provides data on a wide range of topics – population, health and nutrition.

South Africa’s 2016 survey included questions on whether women aged 18 and older had ever experienced physical violence by any partner.

The survey found that “one in five partnered women has ever experienced physical violence by a partner”. But this statistic cannot be applied to the whole female population, as Mabuza did in his speech.

The question relates to “women that were currently and/or previously in a relationship with a man in their lifetime”, Statistics South Africa told Africa Check.

They include “women who are married, divorced, separated, widowed, living or lived with a man as if married, had or have boyfriends or [a] fiancé”.

When considering South Africa’s total adult female population, Statistics South Africa said 7.7% of women 18 years and older experienced violence by a current or previous partner in the 12 months before the survey.

This means that one in 13 women in South Africa – not one in five – have experienced physical violence from an intimate partner. – Kate Wilkinson

Africa Check is busy fact-checking four more claims by Mabuza. Check back as we update this report with our findings:

  • In the last year alone we’ve lost more than 2,000 women’s lives in the hands of men.
  • Only 1 in 3 murders are detected by the police.
  • 41% of the [124,000 cases of rape in the last three years] were against children.

 

Further reading:

 

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