Gender Violence: Hundreds Protest Against South Africa's 'Femicide Epidemic' at World Economic Forum
Protest Against South Africa. (Photo Credits: AFP)

Cape Town,  September 4: Scores of women demonstrated against South Africa's "femicide epidemic" as the World Economic Forum on Africa kicks off in Cape Town on Wednesday, amid growing alarm over gender violence in the country. Some 500 demonstrators -- mainly young women -- gathered in front of the conference venue, where government and business leaders are gathered for the three day meeting, with in an effort to draw attention to recent high-profile rapes and killings. Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa Leave Five Dead, President Cyril Ramaphosa Vows to Clamp Down Violence Against Foreigners.

With chants of "we want justice", protesters carried banners that read "Am I next?", "Rape is a man's issue" and "This is a femicide epidemic, but it's time to fight back". Some scuffled with police outside the venue. One demonstrator, 19-year-old Amber Wehr, said the protests were "not about attacking men but attacking the system that protects men and that offers them inherent privilege".

The rally was prompted by two recent brutal murders that have triggered outcry and much soul-searching in a country that is often seen as one of the world's most dangerous places for women and often appears numb to murder and sexual violence. In one case University of Cape Town student, Uyinene "Nene" Mrwetyana, 19, was raped and bludgeoned to death when she went to a post office. In another boxing champion, Leighandre "Baby Lee" Jegels, 25, was allegedly shot dead by her partner, who was a police officer.

Last year South Africa recorded a 6.9 percent increase in the numbers of murders countrywide, with an average 57 murders committed each day and at least 137 sexual offences are committed per day, according to official figures. Women Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said more than 30 women were killed by their spouses last month alone. South Africa: 13 Killed as Church Roof Collapses in Durban.

"This is a very dark period for us as a country. The assaults, rapes and murders of South African women are a stain on our national conscience," President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement on Tuesday.