What Is Gender- Based Violence?

  • Editology
  • Oct 30, 2023

Gender-Based Violence Against Women in South Africa: A Pervasive Crisis

Gender-based violence (GBV) against women in South Africa is a pervasive and deeply rooted crisis that affects women of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. This issue has devastating consequences for the physical and mental well-being of women, their families, and society at large. In this article, we will explore the alarming prevalence of GBV in South Africa, its root causes, and the efforts to address and combat this critical issue.

Understanding Gender-Based Violence

Defining Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence, often referred to as GBV, encompasses a range of harmful behaviors and actions that are directed at individuals based on their gender. It is a form of discrimination that disproportionately affects women and girls. GBV can take many forms, including physical violence, sexual assault, emotional abuse, and economic exploitation.

Prevalence Worldwide

GBV is a global problem, affecting millions of women across the world. In South Africa, as in many other countries, it is a significant concern. Understanding the scale and nature of GBV in South Africa is essential for addressing the issue effectively.

The Prevalence of Gender-Based Violence in South Africa

Alarming Statistics

South Africa has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world. The prevalence of GBV is staggering, and it is often referred to as a “second pandemic” in the country. Some key statistics highlight the gravity of the issue:

  • According to a national survey, 56% of South African women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • The femicide rate in South Africa is five times higher than the global average.
  • On average, a woman is murdered in South Africa every three hours.

Underreporting and Stigma

It is essential to acknowledge that these statistics likely underestimate the actual extent of GBV in South Africa. Underreporting is common due to various factors, including fear, stigma, and the lack of trust in the criminal justice system. Many victims suffer in silence, making it challenging to provide them with the necessary support and protection.

Root Causes of Gender-Based Violence in South Africa

Understanding the root causes of GBV is crucial for devising effective strategies to combat it. Several interconnected factors contribute to the prevalence of GBV in South Africa:

Patriarchal Society

South Africa, like many other countries, has a deeply entrenched patriarchal society where men often hold positions of power and authority. This power dynamic contributes to the subordination of women and justifies acts of violence against them.

Economic Inequality

High levels of economic inequality in South Africa exacerbate the vulnerability of women. Poverty and financial dependence can make it challenging for women to leave abusive relationships or access the resources they need to escape violence.

 Cultural Norms and Beliefs

Cultural norms and beliefs can perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and tolerate violence. Practices like “ukuthwala” (forced marriage) and other customs can contribute to the acceptance of GBV.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drug abuse are often linked to instances of GBV. Substance abuse can lead to increased aggression and violent behavior.

A lack of effective legal enforcement and the perception that perpetrators may escape justice can deter women from reporting incidents of violence. The criminal justice system faces significant challenges in prosecuting GBV cases effectively.

Efforts to Address Gender-Based Violence in South Africa

Efforts to combat GBV in South Africa are multifaceted, involving government initiatives, civil society organizations, and international partnerships. These efforts aim to address the root causes, support survivors, and hold perpetrators accountable. Some of the key initiatives and strategies include:

 National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (NSP)

The South African government has introduced the NSP to guide a coordinated response to GBV. The plan focuses on prevention, support for survivors, and strengthening the criminal justice system.

Support Services

Various organizations and shelters provide critical support services for survivors of GBV, offering safe spaces, counseling, legal assistance, and medical care.

Awareness and Education

Educational campaigns seek to raise awareness about GBV, challenge harmful stereotypes, and promote healthy relationships. These campaigns are instrumental in changing attitudes and behaviors.

Efforts are underway to improve legal frameworks and policies to better protect victims and prosecute perpetrators. These reforms aim to close legal loopholes and enhance the criminal justice system’s capacity to handle GBV cases.

International Collaboration

South Africa collaborates with international organizations and donor agencies to strengthen its response to GBV. This collaboration includes support for research, capacity building, and the development of effective interventions.

Challenges and Future Directions

While progress has been made in addressing GBV in South Africa, significant challenges persist. Some of the ongoing challenges and future directions include:


Addressing the issue of underreporting remains a challenge. Efforts to create a more supportive environment for survivors to come forward are crucial.

Implementation and Enforcement

Effective implementation and enforcement of existing laws and policies are essential to combat GBV. This includes holding perpetrators accountable and providing consistent support to survivors.


Preventing GBV requires long-term efforts to change social norms and behaviors. Education and awareness campaigns must continue to challenge harmful beliefs and stereotypes.

Support Services

The availability of support services, including shelters and counseling, must be expanded and adequately funded to meet the needs of survivors.


Gender-based violence against women in South Africa is a deeply troubling and pervasive issue. The high prevalence of GBV, along with challenges such as underreporting and cultural factors, necessitates a multi-pronged approach involving government, civil society, and international partners. Progress has been made, but much work remains to be done to address the root causes, support survivors, and change societal attitudes. Gender-based violence is not only a human rights violation but also a significant barrier to achieving gender equality and social progress. South Africa, like many other countries, is committed to combating this crisis, but it requires sustained efforts, investment, and community engagement to make lasting change.

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