Original articles

Guns and gender-based violence in South Africa

Naeemah Abrahams, Rachel Jewkes, Shanaaz Mathews


Background. The criminal use of firearms in South Africa is widespread and a major factor in the country having the third-highest homicide rate in the world. Violence is a common feature of South African society. A firearm in the home is a risk factor in intimate partner violence, but this has not been readily demonstrated in South Africa because of a lack of data.

Methods. We drew on several South African studies including national homicide studies, intimate partner studies, studies with male participants and studies from the justice sector, to discuss the role of gun ownership on gender-based violence.
Conclusion. Guns play a significant role in violence against women in South Africa, most notably in the killing of intimate partners. Although the overall homicide data suggest that death by shooting is decreasing, data for intimate partner violence are not readily available. We have no idea if the overall decrease in gunshot homicides applies to women in relationships, and therefore gun control should remain high on the legislative agenda.

Authors' affiliations

Naeemah Abrahams, Gender & Health Research Unit MRC

Rachel Jewkes, MRC

Shanaaz Mathews, Gender and Health Research Unit Medical Research Council

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violence, gender based violence, guns, firearms,

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2010;100(9):586-588.

Article History

Date submitted: 2009-11-17
Date published: 2010-09-07

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