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11 September 2019

Research community must step up the challenge to understand root causes of gender based violence

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

Pretoria, Wednesday 11 September 2019 – The Human Sciences Research Council adds its voice to, and stands in solidarity with, the people of South Africa as the country confronts the severe crisis of gender based violence.

With one woman being killed every three hours, South Africa has the fourth highest interpersonal violence death rate.  Many of these murders come at the hands of intimate partners.

Reflecting on the ongoing, and increasingly brutal, incidents of gender based violence, the HSRC’s CEO Professor Crain Soudien said, “Inured, unfortunately, as we have become to the violence our country experiences on a daily basis, the murders and brutality experienced by many young women have hurt us deeply.”
“It is our mandate at the Human Sciences Research Council to understand and make sense of the social realities of our country. We are called on to explain its socio-economic nature and the behaviour of its citizens – what lies behind the inequality and poverty we see and how and why South Africans respond to the social conditions in which they find themselves in the way they do.”

“Based on this mandate, we have conducted extensive work in our programmes on gender-based violence in all of its manifestations – on the terrible forms of masculinity that arise, on homophobia and the multiple other ways in which men abuse women – and on xenophobia. We have taken the findings of our work into our seminars and into public forums. We have used the opportunities available to us to deepen the conversation on the nature of violence in South Africa and what it is that we need to do, both to stop it and to help our country deal with its conflicts, both personal and social, in much more constructive ways.”

“But the senseless murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana and others make clear to us that our work has to be intensified. That work is urgent. It is about what sits in our heads. It is about what is acceptable and not acceptable as some men look upon women – how they deconstruct their bodies and turn them into objects of sexual commodification. It is about what is required as we look upon each other and decide, in terms of this, whether we belong or not and, based on this, what respect we will accord each other.”

“Our work must make clear that the dignity of each of us is unconditional. The HSRC will seek not to only understand the depths into which we appear to have sunk, but to contribute to those multiple efforts that are underway in our homes, in our schools and other places of education, in our places of government, in our places of worship and in our recreational sites, shebeens, sports stadiums and clubs, to make our country a safe place in which we can all go about our lives, in whatever we do, with a sense that we will be looking out for each other.”

About the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.

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