Webinar explores Femicide in South Africa during COVID-19

From top left clockwise: Professor Nirmala Gopal, Professor Mzikazi Nduna, Dr Ephraim Sibanyoni and Dr Amira Paripurna. From top left clockwise: Professor Nirmala Gopal, Professor Mzikazi Nduna, Dr Ephraim Sibanyoni and Dr Amira Paripurna.
From top left clockwise: Professor Nirmala Gopal, Professor Mzikazi Nduna, Dr Ephraim Sibanyoni and Dr Amira Paripurna.

The College of Humanities’ webinar on Conceptualisation, implications and patterns of femicide during COVID-19 and preventative measures featured Professor Mzikazi Nduna (Wits University) and Dr Amira Paripurna (Universitas Airlangga, Indonesia). The session was chaired by Professor Nirmala Gopal (UKZN) and convened by Dr Ephraim Sibanyoni (UKZN).

Nduna looked at violence against women, femicide and the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa, barriers to women leaving toxic situations, femicide prevention interventions and the limitations of what is known about femicide during the lockdown. ‘South Africa experienced a surge in rapes and killing of women during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown with three high-profile cases sparking social media and other campaigns. As people spend more time in close proximity in household isolation, women and children are at risk of experiencing higher levels of violence,’ she said.

Nduna believes that femicide does not occur in a vacuum and is part of a continuum of gender-based violence that is perpetuated by cultural norms embedded in society. ‘It is meted out on women through harmful social and stereotypical gender norms, and practices endorsed by patriarchy remain at the root of it. When it comes to irrevocably and radically shifting societal standards towards humanising women outside violence, most of society remains impervious.’

She suggests a reduction in gun ownership and facilitation of early separation and divorce. ‘There should be safety for women going through separation and divorce where violence was a feature of the relationship. The time for calls to action is over – we must ACT!’

Paripurna focused on the challenges and opportunities in preventing domestic violence in Indonesian Muslim society. She showed that the state is unable to resolve the existing conflict between the requirements of the law – which oblige the state to amend conflicting legislation – and the provisions of both civil and Islamic marriage laws, which create the potential for violence against women in the household.

‘The gender bias in family law has perpetuated the occurrence of domestic violence. Furthermore, in many cases media and society only focus on the man and his love and forget the voice of the (murdered) female victims. The community is busy looking for perpetrators, hearing stories from perpetrators. Even before the law, the voice and perspective of the perpetrators are often the only ones heard,’ argued Paripurna.

She noted that the promulgation of the Anti-Domestic Violence Law gives hope for the elimination of domestic violence in Indonesia. ‘The law comprehensively specifies the types of domestic violence and provides norms conducive to preventing it. However, this Law alone is insufficient without it being followed by efforts to amend Indonesian family law, which still perpetuates discrimination against women,’ she said.

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