South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius (AFP/Getty Images)

In a piece at the New Yorker, Charlayne Hunter-Gault writes that the shooting death of model Reeva Steenkamp, allegedly by South Africa's star runner Oscar Pistorius, shines a light on some of the darker facts of life for so many South Africans: domestic abuse.

Sometimes a murder manages to shine a light on a particular problem. The Sandy Hook School massacre ignited a national conversation, albeit a still unsatisfactory one, on gun violence. And the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp by South Africa's star runner Oscar Pistorius may open a window on some of the darker facts of life for so many South Africans, women in particular. (Pistorius is being charged with premeditated murder, a charge his family has denied on his behalf, without offering an explanation of how he came to shoot her; he has yet to enter a plea.)

In South Africa, many, if not most, women have experienced domestic abuse; many of them live with it on a routine basis, with very little recourse and no headlines about their fate. For example, the World Health Organization last year reported that some sixty thousand women and children in South Africa were victims of domestic violence on a monthly basis — the highest reported rate in the world.

Other studies in the past few years indicate that South Africa has one of the highest incidents of rape in the world, with one survey in country's bustling economic heartland, Gauteng province, showing that some 37.4 per cent of men admitted to rape, and 25.3 per cent of women said that they had been raped. It is likely that these numbers are even higher in rural areas where few studies are conducted, few cases reported — either out of fear or in acquiescence to cultural realities. A study by the highly regarded Medical Research Council, three years back, revealed that the majority of men surveyed and more than half of the women believed "a woman should obey her husband."


Read Charlayne Hunter-Gault's entire piece at the New Yorker.

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