Oscar Pistorius: where is gender and gender-based violence?

The Stop Gender Violence Campaign – a coalition of 36 organisations, which advocates for an end to gender-based violence in South Africa – registers with strong concern Judge Thokozile Masipa’s refusal to see the Pistorius case as involving a gender violence issue.

On 6 July 2016, Judge Thokozile Masipa handed down the much-anticipated sentencing judgment in the Oscar Pistorius murder case. In February 2013 Pistorius killed his 29 year-old girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Allegedly mistaking her for an intruder, he fatally shot her four times through the bathroom door of his home. In 2014 he was convicted of culpable homicide, and served 10 months of his five-year sentence in jail before being released on house arrest. Last year, following an appeal by the State, Pistorius’ conviction was upgraded to murder upon the finding that he had killed Steenkamp with dolus eventualis (the weakest form of intention, but intention nonetheless). Subsequently, a second sentencing hearing commenced, with Judge Masipa presiding again.

The sentence was determined as six years. This is merely one year longer than the sentence he received for culpable homicide, which questions the seriousness of his conviction being upped to that of murder. One month earlier, two men found guilty of robbing SABC journalists were sentenced to 15 years in jail each. The contrast between the severity of the crimes and the ultimate punishment exacted is noticeable. This disparity might well question the value the South African justice system places on the value of a woman’s life.

We are particularly concerned by Judge Masipa’s assessment that this case had nothing to do with gender-based violence. We disagree. Firstly, letters and WhatsApp messages presented during the trial revealed that Steenkamp was frightened of Pistorius, as he was possessively jealous and often verbally attacked her. And secondly, this case is about a man killing a woman, his girlfriend. With the high rate of femicide in this country, it is hard to ignore this link to gender-based violence. The case presented an opportunity for Masipa to comment on and condemn the prevalence of gender-based violence in South Africa. Her explicit failure to do so – both verbally and implicitly through her lenient sentence – sidelined the issue of gender violence and the victims, thereof. Women who experience abuse on a daily basis in South Africa have been let down by the judgment.

We call on society to condemn the senseless violence that continues to be perpetrated against women in this country. It is time for responses to gender violence to be effective and efficient. We demand a fully-costed, multi-sectoral and inclusive National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence to coordinate the responses to gender violence in South Africa. As a country we must stand up and say No More Gender-Based Violence! No More Unfunded Mandates! No More Lipservice! No More Empty Promises!


The Stop Gender Violence Campaign (formerly the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence Campaign) – a coalition of 36 civil society organisations.

This press release is endorsed by:

  • Amnesty International South Africa
  • Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP)
  • Sonke Gender Justice
  • World AIDS Campaign International (WACI)
  • Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
  • Tears Foundation
  • Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT)
  • Centre for Sexuality AIDS and Gender, University of Pretoria
  • New World Foundation
  • Justice and Women (JAW)

Media Contacts:

Tshilidzi Masikhwa
Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme

Kerryn Rehse

Marike Keller
Sonke Gender Justice