South Africa: Every six hours a woman's partner kills her

10 December 2008

A December 2008 seminar on the impact of firearms on domestic violence has heard that on average one woman a day is shot dead by an intimate partner, and around 80% of the guns used are legal.

According to recent Gun Free South Africa figures, on average one woman six hours is killed by an intimate partner wielding a gun or using other means every six hours.

In South Africa, there are 302 fatal shootings to every 100 000 privately-owned guns, compared with four in the United States.

The Cape Town seminar, hosted by the police, National Prosecuting Authority and NGOs, yesterday as part of the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign.

Laura Polletcut, of the Ceasefire Campaign, said guns had become a symbol of power during apartheid as both sides had used arms in the struggle.

The rise of PW Botha from defence minister to prime minister and state president had "entrenched the culture of militarism", she said. Even now money was being spent on arms instead of development.

Recent figures showed that, when a gun was kept in the house, there was a 41% greater chance of someone being shot, Polletcut said.

In reviewing how the Firearms Control Act of 2004 could be used to deal more effectively with domestic violence, Lewina Rowland, of Gun Free SA, said it ensured that someone wanting a gun licence applied first for a competency certificate.

This allowed the community to step in and possibly prevent someone from obtaining a firearm.

Police had to interview three people associated with the applicant, commonly a partner, neighbour and employer. The applicant could not have been separated, divorced or fired from a job in the preceding two years.

Gun Free SA hoped these measures would stop the wrong people from getting a licence.

The new act allowed citizens to own only one gun for self-defence. Hunters and sports shooters could own more.

Although the act placed an emphasis on the reduction and eradication of illegal firearms, it also put in place measures to prevent the use of firearms in domestic violence, Rowland said.

Lolita Bennett, a survivor of domestic violence, said women in abusive relationships should speak out because this was "the biggest thing they can do for themselves".

Senior prosecutor Fiona Cloete said the main objective was to discuss what could be done as a group and how women and children could be empowered.

This article was originally published on page 4 of Cape Times on December 10, 2008.

Independent Online, South Africa