Attacks on women

2008-02-15 00:00

Pietermaritzburg has been horrified by three unconnected killings in different parts of the city in the space of less than a week. The female victims apparently had little in common: they were of different races and cultural and educational backgrounds. What they did share, however, was their gender, and the fact that the men associated with them felt entitled to attack and kill them, whether for reasons of gain, from alcohol-fuelled anger, or from an exaggerated reaction to irritation.

The killings are an extreme form of what organisations such as Lifeline routinely deal with. Lifeline, according to its director Debbie Harrison, handles an average of 20 cases each month of women seeking advice for ill-treatment by male partners, including threats and physical bullying. Some women live in constant fear, and many are seriously injured, yet cowed into remaining in their abusive relationships.

This kind of abuse against women — and against children — pervades South African society to the extent that it’s taken on the character of a malignant disease. While some victims do muster the courage to seek help from Lifeline and other welfare organisations, far more do not. It’s vital that vulnerable women and minors, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances, be made aware of the existence of organisations that are able to offer moral support and practical assistance. It’s vital for them to understand that there’s no stigma attached to asking for help, and no need for them to continue to remain shackled to vicious partners or to live as brutalised prisoners in their own homes.

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