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  • Writer's pictureKaplan Blumberg


Gender-based violence (GBV) is a profound and widespread problem in South Africa. GBV (which disproportionately affects women and girls) is systemic, and deeply entrenched in institutions, cultures, and traditions in South Africa.

What does it mean?

GBV, can be broadly defined as “the general term used to capture violence that occurs as a result of the normative role expectations associated with each gender, along with the unequal power relationships between […] genders, within the context of a specific society.”

What constitutes gender-based violence?

GBV can be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial, and can be perpetrated by intimate partners, acquaintances, strangers, and institutions. Most acts of interpersonal gender-based violence are committed by men against women, and the man perpetrating the violence is often known by the woman, such as a partner or family member.

GBV in South Africa?

Although exact statistics would be difficult to obtain for many reasons (including the fact that most incidents of GBV are not reported), it is evident South Africa has particularly high rates of GBV.

Here is what we do know:

Population-based surveys show very high levels of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence in particular, with intimate partner violence being the most common form of violence against women.

Whilst people of all genders perpetrate and experience intimate partner and or sexual violence, men are most often the perpetrators and women and children the victims.

More than half of all the women murdered (56%) in 2009 were killed by an intimate male partner.

Between 25% and 40% of South African women have experienced sexual and/or physical intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

Just under 50% of women report having ever experienced emotional or economic abuse at the hands of their intimate partners in their lifetime.

Prevalence estimates of rape in South Africa range between 12% and 28% of women ever reporting being raped in their lifetime.

Between 28 and 37% of adult men report having raped a woman.

Non-partner sexual violence is particularly common but reporting to police is very low. One study found that one in 13 women in Gauteng had reported non-partner rape, and only one in 25 rapes had been reported to the police.

South Africa also faces a high prevalence of gang rape.

Most men who rape do so for the first time as teenagers and almost all men who ever rape do so by their mid-20s.

What do I do if I am a victim of GBV?

South Africa is a signatory to a number of international treaties on GBV, and strong legislative framework, for example the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) (1998), the Sexual Offences Act (2007) and the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Human Persons (2013) Act.

Our offices can assist you in securing a protection order in terms of the Domestic Violence Act, and we offer a family law clinic which offers a thirty-minute consultation free of charge, by prior appointment, every Thursday. Contact our professionals on 041 363 6044 or for sound legal advice.

Here are some important numbers to keep:

SAPS Emergency Services: 10111

Childline South Africa: 0800 055 555

GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428

Legal Aid South Africa: 0800 110 110

Commission for Gender Equality: 0800 007 709

South African Human Rights Commission: 011 877 3600

Domestic Violence Helpline: 0800 150 150

AIDS Helpline: 0800 012 322

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This article is not intended to constitute legal advice and is produced for information purposes only and to provide a general understanding of the legal position relating to the topic. It is recommended that advice relating to the specific circumstances of your situation be sought from our attorneys before acting upon the content of this article. This article was written at a particular point in time and accordingly may not always reflect the most recent legal developments, if any, applicable to the relevant topic. Kaplan Blumberg and its partners and/or employees, are not responsible for any consequences which may follow upon any decision taken to act upon the information provided in this article.

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