Far more men than women are killed in SA


By Daniel Steyn, GroundUp

A study by researchers associated with the Medical Research Council (MRC) recommended that the homicide rate among men in South Africa be tackled as a matter of urgency.

Prof. Richard Matzopoulos, from the MRC’s Burden of Disease Unit, and the rest of the team of researchers studied post-mortem reports – of men and women – in 2017 and looked, among other things, at the cause of death, age and geographical location, as well as whether alcohol played any role in the death.

The study found that 87% of people killed in 2017 were men. The researchers found similar percentages for 2009 (86%) and 2000 (84%).

According to the researchers, this is the first study of its kind on the murder of men in South Africa. Previous studies have focused mainly on the killing of women. The year 2017 was used to coincide with the third national study on femicide (with previous studies also conducted in 2000 and 2009).

The researchers had an uphill battle to have their study published in a peer-reviewed journal. Dr. Morna Cornell, one of the authors, told GroundUp that men’s health is generally less studied. Cornell believes “we live in an outdated paradigm that views men as powerful, with the ability to navigate the health systems and therefore less deserving of care”.

The most common causes of death among male victims are stab wounds from a sharp object and shooting incidents. For those between the ages of 15 and 44, the homicide rate among men is more than eight times that of women. The Western Cape has the largest gap between men and women as victims: for every woman who is murdered, 11.4 men are murdered.

Homicides of men reach a peak during December and weekends, indicating the role that alcohol plays in the figure.

The study also hopes to challenge the idea that men are “invulnerable”.

“The fact that men are perpetrators and victims overwhelms the strong evidence that men are extremely vulnerable in many ways,” says the research.

Murder in South Africa is mainly committed in poorer areas, where the effects of poverty and inequality are most evident. According to the study, “violence has been normalized as a regular element of civil protest and political discourse”.

“Men are socialized to cope with pressure through the externalization of anger, irritability, violence against partners and others, as well as increased incidence of dangerous behaviour. This, together with the high levels of violence to which men are exposed, (causes) an often intergenerational cycle of violence,” says the study.

The study acknowledges that “violence against women is endemic in South Africa, with rates almost six times the international figure”, but also states that “men’s disproportionate burden of homicide has not led to targeted, meaningful prevention”.

Interventions recommended include stricter controls on alcohol and firearms, programs to deal with social norms that drive violence, as well as efforts to eradicate the root causes of poverty and inequalities.

Matzopoulos, lead author, told GroundUp that more research is needed to understand the risks and interventions, especially in a South African context.

A second phase of the study will look at victims and perpetrators within a specific situation.

  • This post was originally posted on GroundUp and is used with permission.