According to an article from The Economist from October 2010, South Africa was ranked fourth out of 53 African countries for its record on women’s rights. It comes in sixth–out of 134 countries, on the World Economic Forum’s “gender gap index.” Also, on the UNDP’s “gender empowerment measure” it does well, being placed 26th out of 182 countries. In the South African Constitution, which was penned in 1996, non-sexism is equally ranked with non-racialism. Laws regarding women’s rights have been put into practice by the dozens: legalizing abortion, giving women equal power in marriage, cracking down on domestic violence, criminalising sexual harassment at work, banning all gender discrimination and providing women of any skin colour with the same degree of affirmative action in education, employment and politics as blacks, coloureds (people of mixed race) and Indians.
This all looks great on paper. It is impressive actually. But what about what is being practiced? That article was published in 2010, and now, three short years later, South Africa is facing a monstrous women’s rights controversy in the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend of South African superstar athlete Oscar Pistorius. Steenkamp was a celebrity in her own right–a model, actress and activist for violence against women. Merely hours before she died, Steenkamp tweeted:
“WEAR BLACK THIS FRIDAY IN SUPPORT AGAINST #RAPE”
She also posted an illustration of domestic violence on Instagram and wrote: “I woke up in a happy safe home this morning. Not everyone did. Speak out against the rape of individuals in SA.” Who would have ever guessed that a woman who was such a strong advocate for women’s rights and independence would fall victim herself? In the aftermath of her shooting, accusations have come to light that domestic disturbances had occurred between Steenkamp and Pistorius during their relationship. If police had been notified of these possible violent acts, why wasn’t more done as a precaution so her murder could have been prevented?
These are the questions that envelop each and every case of violence against women. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how many laws you have in place or how many organizations you have that ensure gender equality. What matters is that each and every citizen is safe.
Researchers and advocates alike have pegged down four areas in which holistic approaches have upturned positive outcomes, and they are the following:
1. Encouraging a nurturing facet of fatherhood
2. Uncovering, and disbanding women instigators and acceptors of violence
3. Acknowledging domestic violence against men also exists
4. Ending domestic child abuse and encouraging primary education for all children