FEMICIDE: The gendered dimension of homicide.

FEMICIDE: The intentional murder of women because they are women.

FEMICIDE includes any form of violence against women that ends in death; rape that ends in murder, and honour killings.


FEMICIDE doesn’t just refer to the killing of women. It also includes the entire system that tolerates such killings by failing to address and document them as what they are, failing to prosecute or convict those responsible, or passing a lenient sentence.

22-year old Karabo Mokoena had been missing for two weeks before her death was confirmed yesterday. Her charred remains were found in a shallow grave in Lyndhurst, Johannesburg. She was killed and burnt her by her 27-year old boyfriend. Her murder is the latest in the pooling statistics of femicide worldwide.

As the horrific news of her death spread through social media yesterday, one thing became clear; Karabo’s death could have been prevented. As it’s turned out, the 22-year old had been in an abusive relationship with her killer but chose to remain in it.

As narrated in the post above by her friend, there were signs of impending doom; besides physical and psychological abuse, he had tried to kill her many times before. So why did she stay? What realities was she exposed to growing up? What did society teach her about relationships that made her tolerate an abusive partner?

The late Karabo
The late Karabo

Sadly, we will never know. But what we do know is that our systems and culture permit femicide, with patriarchy at the root of it. Patriarchy tells women that they need men to be complete or valid. Patriarchy advises women to endure abusive relationships to maintain the ‘missus’ title. Patriarchy does not give women the same opportunity as men to create wealth. It promotes women’s dependence on men and frowns at the ideology of an independent woman. Little wonder that some women remain in abusive relationships because they are financially handicapped, and that most cases of femicide involve situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner.

As Khaya Dlanga, a South African social media influencer points out in a Facebook post, “When a woman reports abuse she has to go to a police station. She mostly has to report her case to a man; a man who might refuse to open a case and tell her to resolve issues with her man. Station commanders are men. Judges are men. Lawmakers are men. Some of them are themselves abusive and see it as a family issue, not a legal one. How are women to feel safe when the structures themselves are set up the way they are?” he asks.

The truth is until we build a society where women have as much power, opportunities and control as men, sad stories like that of Karabo will continue to emerge.


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