“Am I next?” – that’s the question women in South Africa are asking on social media following several high-profile cases of murder, abductions and rape that have sparked public anger and which has forced President Cyril Ramaphosa to publicly acknowledge their calls for a state of emergency.

Ramaphosa directly addressed protesters on Thursday following a series of popular anti-violence demonstrations outside the venue of the World Economic Forum and the parliament building in Cape Town. A petition calling for a state of emergency to better protect women and girls has more than 450,000 signatures, highlighting the depth of feeling on an issue that touches families and communities across the country. That appeal came amid widespread revulsion at the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old University of Cape Town student. She was found dead in a post office days after she went to collect a parcel.

In an address to the nation on Thursday, Ramaphosa did not formally invoke the state of emergency demanded by protesters but called violence against women and girls “a crime against our common humanity”. He said he will ask parliament to consider making a national register of gender-based violence offenders public, and will also propose harsher minimum sentences for those guilty of such crimes. But with South Africa holding the world’s fourth-highest murder rate of females, based on 2016 figures from the World Health Organization, will those measures be enough to guarantee the safety of women and girls?

In the first of two episodes looking at major issues facing South Africa this week, we’ll look at what it will take to eradicate gender-based violence plaguing the country.
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