South Africa: Failure to Tackle Domestic Violence a Violation of Women’s Rights – UN Experts

GENEVA (17 May 2021) South Africa’s low levels of prosecution and conviction in domestic violence cases and the frequent failures by the police to serve and enforce protection orders, exposed survivors to repeated abuses and resulted in the violation of women’s fundamental rights, the UN women’s rights committee has found.

In a report published today, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said available evidence indicated that the scale of domestic violence, including femicide, is alarmingly high in South Africa.

Many women and girls in South Africa, especially in rural areas, are victims of harmful practices, including child marriage, abduction for marriage (“ukuthwala”) and polygamy or polygamous unions that often give rise to domestic violence.

Those who reported their abuser often did not get the protection they needed, CEDAW found. According to official figures, out of 143, 824 requests for protection orders in 2018-2019, only 22,211 were granted – and in many of these cases, the protection order just instructed the abuser to sleep in another room in the same house.

The Committee highlighted the substantial suffering inflicted on women and girls frequently exposed to domestic violence, including sexual violence from a very young age. “Many victims described physical violence including rape, battery with objects, kicks and inflicted burns by their partners, who often abused alcohol or drugs, had low self-esteem or had sadistic tendencies,” the Committee said.

“Some survivors used drugs to cope with the violence or had attempted to commit suicide. Even after leaving an abusive relationship, many continued to suffer from depression, trauma and anxiety,” the Committee added. The report also noted that in many cases, women had been killed by their partners.