SAMRC to commence the third National Femicide Study

Cape Town | The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), through its Gender and Health Research Unit (GHRU), will commence its third National Femicide Study at the beginning of the month of October this year. The Unit has been calling for support to repeat this study as it will provide valuable data on whether we have an increase in femicide in the country. The recent reports of heightened killing of women and girl children over the past month makes this study even more critical.

In his recently released statement on Gender-Based Violence, President Cyril Ramaphosa called on all South Africans to come together as a nation to confront the scourge. The SAMRC has, to date, conducted two national femicide studies – one of which found that three women were killed by an intimate partner on a daily basis. The Council also reported, at that time, that 10% of women were killed by non-partners for example Uyinene Mrwetyana who was killed by a stranger and that 20% of women were killed by an unidentified perpetrator for example, 14-year-old Janika Mallo whose body was found in her grandmothers’ backyard. Uyenene and Janika are some of the many victims of resurfacing GBV who made headlines across the length and breadth of the country.  

The Council were able to also describe sexual homicide as part of the femicide studies and we showed one in five (494 of 2670) women who were killed in 2009 died in the context of sexual violence. Similarly, for the same period, one in twelve (104 of 1277) child homicides had evidence of sexual violence as part of the murder.  

According to GHRU Acting Director, Professor Naeemah Abrahams, dedicated femicide studies must be conducted as current crime data does not allow for disaggregation and the identity of the perpetrators. “The 1st National Femicide study established that South Africa has an intimate femicide rate that far exceeds documented rates for other countries.  In 1999 we found that four women were killed per day by an intimate partner. We repeated the Femicide study to look at women killed in 2009 and although there was a decline it remained that more than 1000 women were killed by an intimate which related to three women a day,” she adds.

Globally, sexual homicide has been described as a rare event in many countries such as the United States where under 1% of all homicides (male and female) are identified as sexual homicides and in the United Kingdom where 3.7% of those found guilty of homicide included a sexual violent component. However sexual homicides are not rare events in South Africa with approximately 500 adult female cases and 104 children cases in 2009.

Abrahams also pointed out that one of their (GHRU) main objectives, through generated knowledge, is the prevention of gender-based violence and its impact on the lives and health of women by helping the public and policy decision-makers understand current issues, including the role of gender inequality and its impact on women’s lives.

The third Femicide study will be funded by the SAMRC and the Ford Foundation. The research will commence in October 2019 and due to its multi-faceted approach and lengthy processes, the results will only be published in 2021. Alongside this study, the SAMRC will also repeat the National Child Homicide Study given the strong links between violence against women and violence against children.

The Unit also host two global programmes, namely: Sexual Violence Research Initiative and the What Works to prevent violence against women. In addition to its continued contribution to country’s scientific edifice and knowledge economy in the area of GBV, last week the staff at the SAMRC’s Headquarters in Cape Town, marched in solidarity with victims of this alarming state of violence against women and children. This was in response to the #IAmNotNext Movement which called upon every citizen to take a stand against this.


For more information on the SAMRC’s Femicide studies:

Release date: 
Tuesday, September 10, 2019 - 08:40
Keletso Ratsela
Contact: Keletso Ratsela

Media Strategist
Tel: +27 71 214 5272