Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access


Lyn Snodgrass


This article explores the complexities of gender-based violence in post-apartheid South Africa and interrogates the socio-political issues at the intersection of class, ‘race’ and gender, which impact South African women. Gender equality is up against a powerful enemy in societies with strong patriarchal traditions such as South Africa, where women of all ‘races’ and cultures have been oppressed, exploited and kept in positions of subservience for generations. In South Africa, where sexism and racism intersect, black women as a group have suffered the major brunt of this discrimination and are at the receiving end of extreme violence. South Africa’s gender-based violence is fuelled historically by the ideologies of apartheid (racism) and patriarchy (sexism), which are symbiotically premised on systemic humiliation that devalues and debases whole groups of people and renders them inferior. It is further argued that the current neo-patriarchal backlash in South Africa foments and sustains the subjugation of women and casts them as both victims and perpetuators of pervasive patriarchal values.

Full Text:



Amnesty International. March 2015. Global backlash against women’s rights is having a devastating toll. Available at /news/2015 (accessed 14 August 2015).

Africa Institute of South Africa. November 2012. Women’s role in the transformation of South Africa. Available at /womens-role–in–the–transformation=of the south-africa-2012-11-01 (accessed 14 February 2015).

African Centre for Citizenship and Democracy. 2012. Gendered subjects, gendered citizens. Working Paper 10. ACCEDE: University of Western Cape. Available at (accessed 20 November 2013).

Altbeker, A. 2007. A country at war with itself: South Africa’s crisis of crime. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers.

Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, CSVR. 2007–2009. Summary report on key findings and recommendations, February 2009; Supplement to final report: Why does South Africa have such high rates of crime? April 2009. Available at (accessed 28 February 2015).

City Press. 2012. ANC women: We’re not feminists. Available at (accessed 20 November 2013).

Daily Maverick. 2013. Analysis: Gender-based violence in South Africa and South Africa’s women’s other problem. Available at (accessed 14 February 2015).

Daily Maverick. 2013. Why India and South Africa respond differently to two rapes. Available at (accessed 20 November 2013).

Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998. Available at Pdf

Employment Equity No. 55 of 1998. ACT Available at

First Rand Foundation. 2014. Reframing interventions to end gender-based violence in South Africa. Lessons learnt from CSI-funded Programmes. Available at (accessed 14 February 2015).

Handrahan, L. 2004. Conflict, gender, ethnicity and post-conflict reconstruction. Security Dialogue, 35(4): 434. Available at (accessed 7 January 2010).

Hartling, L. M. 2007. Humiliation: Real pain, a pathway to violence. Brazilian Journal of Sociology of Emotion, 69: 170, 466–479.

Hassim, Shireen. 2009. Democracy’s shadows: Sexual rights and gender politics in the rape trial of Jacob Zuma. African Studies, 68(1): 57–77. Available at (accessed 15 January 2015).

Human and Social Services, KMPG. 2014. Too costly to ignore – the economic impact of genderbased violence in South Africa. Available at (accessed 14 February 2015).

IOL News. October, 2013. SA not ready for a female president – ANCWL. Available at -president -ancwl-1 (accessed 15 January 2015).

Kaufmann, P., Kuch, H., Neuhäuser, C. and Webster, E. (Eds.). 2011. Humiliation, degradation, dehumanization: human dignity violated. Springer: Dordrecht.

Kimmel, M. 2004. The gendered society. London and New York: Oxford University Press. Lindner, Evelin G. 2000. The psychology of humiliation: Somalia. Rwanda/Burundi and Hitler’s Germany. Doctoral thesis, University of Oslo, Department of Psychology, Oslo.

Malesevic, S. 2010. The sociology of war and violence. London: Cambridge University Press.

Marais, H. 2011. South Africa pushed to the limit. The political economy of change. London: Zed Books.

Margalit, A. 2002. The ethics of memory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Medical Research Council report on intimate femicide in South Africa, 5 February 2014. Available at (accessed 14 August 2015).

Moffett, Helen. 2014. Feminism and the South African polity – A failed marriage. In P.Vale, L.Hamilton, Lawrence and E. Prinsloo, Traditions in South Africa. Ideas, individuals and institutions. Durban: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Motlafi, N. 2015. Why black women in South Africa don’t fully embrace the feminine discourse. Available at http:// the Why-black- women -in- South-Africa-don’t–femine-discourse (accessed 14 August 2015).

Moolakkattu, Stephen John. 2010. Feminism and peace studies: Taking stock of a quarter century. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 13(2): 148. Available at (accessed 7 January 2010).

Morell, R. 2007. Men, masculinities and gender politics in South: A reply to Macleod. PINS, 35: 15–26. Available at (accessed 15 January 2015).

Shefer, T., Crawford, M., Strebel, A., Simbayi Leickness, C., Dwadwa-Henda,N., Cloete, A., Kaufmann, M. and Kalichman, S. 2008. Gender, power and resistance to change among two communities in the Western Cape, South Africa. Feminism and Psychology, 18: 157–182.

Snodgrass, L. and Lamb, S. 2013. Collective emotion and communal memory: Psychopolitical dimensions of intractable violent conflict. Africa Insight, 43(2) September.

Snodgrass, L. and Bodisch, A. 2015. Why are we such a violent nation? The legacy of humiliation in South Africa. Publication pending.

Sonke Gender Justice Network Press release. 2014. Patriarchy revisited: Alarming anti-feminist rhetoric at ministry of women meeting. Available at (accessed 14 February 2015).

South African Commission on Gender Equality. 1998. Available at (accessed 15 January 2015).

South African History Online (SAHO). The history of women’s struggle. Available at (accessed 14 February 2015).

South Africa. September 2008. The National Gender Machinery, Gender Mainstreaming and the Fight against Gender- based violence. Available at African Development Fund – Human Development Department (OSHD) (accessed 15 January 2015).

Statistics South Africa. 2013. Available at (accessed 28 February 2015).

Sunday Times. 2015. Women’s league risks losing its relevance. Editorial. 5 July: 16.

Waetien, T. 2009. Traditions desire: The politics of culture in the rape trial of Jacob Zuma. Association of Concerned African Scholars. Available at http://concerned African scholars. org/bulletin/issue84/waetjienen-mare/ (accessed 15 January 2015).

Weeks, N. M. 2015. South Africa braced for new confrontation with government over controversial law. Available at http:// the new-law (accessed 14 August 2015).

Zsuzsanna, I. 2000. Violence, crime and fear in contemporary South African fiction: David Medalie’s The shadow follows and J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace. Available at: LuckayViolencePresentationE-bookFormat.pdf (accessed 14 November 2014).



  • There are currently no refbacks.