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Femicide, intimate partner femicide, and non-intimate partner femicide in South Africa: An analysis of 3 national surveys, 1999–2017

posted on 2024-04-16, 08:57 authored by Naeemah Abrahams,, Shibe Mhlongo, Esnat Chirwa, Bianca Dekel, Asiphe Ketelo, Carl Lombard,, Nwabisa Shai, Leane RamsoomarLeane Ramsoomar, Shanaaz Mathews, Gérard Labuschagne, Richard Matzopoulos, Megan PrinslooMegan Prinsloo, Lorna J. Martin, Rachel Jewkes

In most countries, reliable national statistics on femicide, intimate partner femicide (IPF), and non-intimate partner femicide (NIPF) are not available. Surveys are required to collect robust data on this most extreme consequence of intimate partner violence (IPV). We analysed 3 national surveys to compare femicide, IPF, and NIPF from 1999 to 2017 using age-standardised rates (ASRs) and incidence rate ratios (IRRs).

We conducted 3 national mortuary-based retrospective surveys using weighted cluster designs from proportionate random samples of medicolegal laboratories. We included females 14 years and older who were identified as having been murdered in South Africa in 1999 (n = 3,793), 2009 (n = 2,363), and 2017 (n = 2,407). Further information on the murdered cases were collected from crime dockets during interviews with police investigating officers. Our findings show that South Africa had an IPF rate of 4.9/100,000 female population in 2017. All forms of femicide among women 14 years and older declined from 1999 to 2017. For IPF, the ASR was 9.5/100,000 in 1999. Between 1999 and 2009, the decline for NIPF was greater than for IPF (IRR for NIPF 0.47 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.42 to 0.53) compared to IRR for IPF 0.69 (95% CI 0.63 to 0.77). Rates declined from 2009 to 2017 and did not differ by femicide type. The decline in IPF was initially larger for women aged 14 to 29, and after 2009, it was more pronounced for those aged 30 to 44 years. Study limitations include missing data from the police and having to use imputation to account for missing perpetrator data.

In this study, we observed a reduction in femicide overall and different patterns of change in IPF compared to NIPF. The explanation for the reductions may be due to social and policy interventions aimed at reducing IPV overall, coupled with increased social and economic stability. Our study shows that gender-based violence is preventable even in high-prevalence settings, and evidence-based prevention efforts must be intensified globally. We also show the value of dedicated surveys in the absence of functional information systems


South African National Department of Health



Stellenbosch University


Abrahams, Naeemah; Mhlongo, Shibe; Chirwa, Esnat; Dekel, Bianca; Ketelo, Asiphe; Lombard, Carl; Shai, Nwabisa; Ramsoomar, Leane; Mathews, Shanaaz; Labuschagne, Gérard; Matzopoulos, Richard; Prinsloo, Megan; Martin, Lorna J.; & Jewkes, Rachel.




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Abrahams, N, Mhlongo, S, Chirwa, E, Dekel, B, Ketelo, A, Lombard, C, Shai, N, Ramsoomar, L, Mathews, S, Labuschagne, G, Matzopoulos, R, Prinsloo, M, Martin, LJ & Jewkes, R. 2024. Femicide, intimate partner femicide, and non-intimate partner femicide in South Africa: An analysis of 3 national surveys, 1999–2017. Stellenbosch University. Dataset. DOI:

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