Your intimate partner could be your next killer!
Lilita Tyibilika holding a poster. Photo credit: Laura Chitima
Intimate femicide is a major issue in South Africa, with one woman dying every 8 hours at the hands of their intimate partners!
Many cases of women being killed by their intimate partners (husbands, boyfriends, male friend and ex-relations) have gone unnoticed and unheard for a long time, in South Africa. It was not until the recent killing of a young lady, Karabo Mokeona and the explosive hashtag #MenAreTrash that the issue was publicised. This hashtag took, the social media and internet by storm, sparking important conversations about femicide in South Africa.
The controversial hashtag #MenAreTrash, enraged many men as they do not like the generalization of this hashtag. Women created this hashtag on social media, “Twitter” to bring light to their lives’ experience at the hands of men. This phenomenon stems from a patriarchal society, where being born male is an instant privilege. However, not all men commit sexual violence, murder or domestic violence against their partners. Men, (particularly heterosexual) benefit from a patriarchal society, as women are subjected to some horrific levels of violence and oppression. The above stated hashtag gained momentum in the first week of May 2017, with the announcement of Karabo Mokoena’s death. This led many people to have the important discussion about intimate femicide. The #MenAreTrash movement is one of the instruments women are using to be heard.
Femicide is not a new narrative to South Africa, as it happens across the country and it is common in different cultures. It is deeply rooted in issues of gender, sexual orientation, race, legal practices and socio-economic status. Gender is a noticeable influence on violent behaviour, which is seen as normal behaviour by society at large and condoned by men and tolerated by most women. Women are more vulnerable to sexual and domestic violence, due to their vulnerability. Girls as young as 14 have been reportedly killed in femicidal killings and women are likely to be killed by their intimate partners. Well known and highly publicized cases are that of a world renowned South African athlete, Oscar Pistorious and the former African National Congress Youth League regional leader Patrick Wisani, who both killed their partners, in cold blood.
Lilita, a black women had this to say. This whole issue is honestly old news, woman are not safe here in South Africa, but now suddenly it is more amplified in the media and to my parents and friends, I have to download Apps so they all know my location whenever. I cannot drive after 8, because my parents are not comfortable with me driving so late at night. Anyone I meet I have to be extra cautious in what I say, or do because they could be the next killer.
Many victims of domestic and sexual violence are afraid of reporting the incidents to South African Police Service (SAPS), due to a number of reasons. The reasons include among others, reaction time being slow and inefficient. The SAPS are notoriously known for mocking and turning victims away. A number of cases people have quoted the SAPS personnel saying “… you should handle it at home, it’s a domestic issue between partners, and hence it’s none of our business…..” Many officers lack emotional intelligence, empathy and skills to handle such cases with the necessary sensitivity. In addition, the lack of skills to investigate and handling of cases often leads to a number of dockets disappearing or not being opened at all. Corruption which has also plagued SAPS, just makes the situation even worse. SAPS personnel directly benefit from missing dockets and cases, through bribe payments. SAPS personnel do not do their job properly and diligently, as a result there are large numbers of uncharged cases. Victims usually end up withdrawing charges, due to intimidation, frustration, humiliation and fear. This normally leaves many victims physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted, a scar that never heals. Victims usually walk away with no faith and hope in the South African justice system.
Girls and women are afraid of men. They do not feel safe in their own spaces, let alone when they are with their intimate partners. Femicide in South Africa is reportedly to be five times higher than the global average. Intimate femicide is a growing problem and needs to be addressed soon, by the government and other influential leaders. The SAPS needs to develop a better system handle such issues and improve the training of its personnel. This is not just a women problem, but South Africa’s problem. It is important to note that not all men are bad, but women need to keep their eyes open. While recent incidents have drawn attention to the reality of women in South Africa, it is unfortunately nothing new. Perhaps it will finally be a cause for awareness and better measures put in place. One question remains are women safe in South Africa?