Ongoing Femicide in South Africa “a crime against humanity”: Church Leaders Alarmed

Demonstrators in South Africa demanding safety for women in the wake of femicide

Reports of gender-based killings targeting women and girls in South Africa have alarmed the collective body of Church leaders in one of Africa’s most industrialized countries, the Catholic leaders terming the phenomenon “a crime against humanity.”

“It is our considered position that femicide is a crime against humanity and must be exterminated by all means necessary,” the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) have stated through their Commission of Justice and Peace.

“The Justice and Peace Commission does not only condemn the killings, but also anger in our hearts and physical abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse and sexual abuse of women and children,” the Bishops have stated.

The Church leaders’ alarm is coming in the wake of growing protests and activism in South Africa, with demonstrators lamenting gender-based violence targeting women.

The ongoing demonstrations have been traced to the raping and killing of 19-year-old Uyinene Mrwetyana in August by an employee of a post office, Luyanda Botha, various media have reported.


In their statement signed by Bishop Victor Phalana who heads SACBC’s Justice and Peace Commission, the Bishops have confirmed media reports and highlighted the killing “of a University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana and boxing champion, Leighandre Jegels who was shot and killed by her police officer boyfriend.”

“Over the past few weeks, the country has witnessed unapparelled incidence of mindless and callous killings of innocent women and girls,” the Bishops have stated.

South Africa seems to be having an alarming rate of femicide, with some widely shared social media indicating that a woman is murdered every 4 hours and the 2017/2018 data showing that a woman is murdered every 3 hours in the country.

“Despite our impressive constitution that embraces plurality and equality between men and women, gender and power relations are still skewed in favour of man,” the Catholic Church leaders in Southern Africa have lamented and added, “Male chauvinism, misogynistic tendencies and stereotypes about women are a social pathology that still haunts our country.”

In a message to ACI Africa about the unfortunate crime against women and girls, Bishop Phalana who is the local ordinary of Klerksdorp diocese expressed his disappointment in femicide saying “In the face of gender-based violence (GBV), I want to cry out. Let this cry be read in the parishes of Klerksdorp, in our Catholic families, catechism classes, youth groups, men’s groups and women’s groups.”

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He appealed for divine intervention, putting a spotlight on male perpetrators of the crime.

“May God help us - men - to be freed and delivered from toxic masculinity and cultural norms that encourage the exploitation of women,” Bishop Phalana said and called on those of male gender to “fight alongside women and girls - against women abuse.”

Addressing the possible causes of femicide, Bishop Phalana prayed that God delivers men “from the spirit of jealousy and possessiveness.”

He also implored God to save men from the tendency to want to control women, which he described as “the need to control women and their finances, their dreams, their resources and their worth.”

“May God free us – men – from our abuse of power and authority which tries to keep women oppressed and unequal,” the South African bishop of Klerksdorp prayed through his message to ACI Africa Friday.


As a way forward, the Bishop called for reconciliation saying, “The mistakes and crimes of the past must be replaced with respect and sincere apologies.”

“Replace violence with non-violence,” he said and added, “replace abuse with affirmation, protection and respect. Defend women and girls and teach the boy-child to respect women.”

“There will (be) no end to gender-based violence until women stand up and speak out,” Bishop Phalana told ACI Africa Friday.