South Africa: Violence against Women, 11/24/'95

South Africa: Violence against Women, 11/24/'95

South Africa: Violence against Women Date distributed (ymd): 951124

Human Rights Watch 485 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10017-6104 TEL: 212/972-8400 FAX: 212/972-0905 E-mail:

1522 K Street, N.W. Washington D.C. 20005 TEL: 202/371-6592 FAX: 202/371-0124 E-mail:

TITLE: Violence Against Women in South Africa

FOR RELEASE November 24, 1995


In Violence Against Women in South Africa, released on the eve of the international "Day of No Violence Against Women," Human Rights Watch denounces widespread violence against women in South Africa and calls on the new government to significantly step up its response to this endemic problem. South African women's organizations estimate that perhaps as many as one in three South African women will be raped and one in six South African women is in an abusive domestic relationship, yet the government routinely fails to investigate, prosecute and punish such violence.

"South African women are not safe in their homes, their places of work or in the streets," notes Dorothy Q. Thomas, Director of the Human Rights Watch Women's Rights Project. "Women across the political and racial spectrum condemn the pervasive nature of domestic violence and rape which often occur in places where they should be safe and by men they know."

Women who seek redress for abuse often face police officers who are indifferent or hostile; medical examiners who are ill-trained and inaccessible; prosecutors who are inexperienced and, at times, biased; and judges who doubt women's credibility as survivors of or witnesses to violence and therefore hand down lenient sentences to those convicted of abuse. A dearth of legal and social support services further exacerbates the effects of violence against South African women.

There are a handful of encouraging government initiatives to reform the criminal justice system and improve the state's response to violence against women, including a specialized sex offenses court and rape reporting centers in some local police stations. However, the positive effect of these efforts is undercut by the lack of a coordinated national strategy to address violence against women and to ensure that policy changes are implemented throughout the criminal justice, health and welfare systems.

Human Rights Watch calls on the government of South Africa to take up the challenge of establishing a coordinated national strategy to address violence against women. No progress can be made toward establishing the type of society the liberation movements pledged to create without addressing the violence suffered by women the majority of the population on a daily basis. Human Rights Watch calls on the government of South Africa to:

-- reform its domestic violence and rape laws to provide better protection against such abuse

-- train police and judicial authorities to respond fairly and in a timely manner to crimes of violence against women

-- ratify expeditiously the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

-- guarantee South African women equal protection of the law.

Copies of the 132-page report are available from the Publications Department, Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104 for $12 for domestic shipping and $15 international shipping.

Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. It is supported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. It accepts no government funds, directly or indirectly. The staff includes Kenneth Roth, executive director; Cynthia Brown, program director; Holly J. Burkhalter, advocacy director; Robert Kimzey, publications director; Jeri Laber, special advisor; Gara LaMarche, associate director; Lotte Leicht, Brussels office director; Juan Mendez, general counsel; Susan Osnos, communications director; Jemera Rone, counsel; Joanna Weschler, United Nations representative; and Derrick Wong, finance and administration director. Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair.

Its Africa division was established in 1988 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Janet Fleischman is the Washington director; Alex Vines is the research associate; Kimberly Mazyck is the associate; Alison DesForges, Bronwen Manby, Binaifer Nowrojee and Michele Wagner are consultants. William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory committee and Alice Brown is the vice chair. Its Women's Rights Project was established in 1990 to monitor violence against women and gender discrimination throughout the world. Dorothy Q. Thomas is the director; Regan Ralph is the staff attorney; LaShawn Jefferson is the research associate; Robin Levi is the Orville Schell fellow; Sinsi Hernandez-Cancio is the Women's Law and Public Policy Fellow; Binaifer Nowrojee is the consultant; and Evelyn Miah and Kerry McArthur are the associates. Kathleen Peratis is chair of the advisory committee.


Message-Id: From: "APIC" Date: Fri, 24 Nov 1995 13:44:31 +0000 Subject: S. Africa: Violence against Women