Date: Dec 10, 2019

South Africa: Violence against women top issue – youth poll

  • Violence against women, corruption and violent crime lead as the most important issues facing the country among young people in South Africa. 

Among young people in South Africa, violence against women, corruption, violent crime and racial inequality lead as the most important issues facing the country, according to a major new poll published by Amnesty International today to mark Global Human Rights Day.

“After the horrific cases of gender-based violence seen in South Africa this year, these findings come as no surprise at all and, as we mark Global Human Rights Day, we need to recognise that this is the defining issue of 2019 for South Africa’s Generation Z,” said Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa.

“As we have said before, the perpetrators of gender-based violence and femicide must face justice. While it is heartening to see a positive response from the President to the anguished calls from women to tackle this scourge, there is still a long way to go.

“Gender-based violence has reached undeniably alarming levels in the country and the large protests responding to the rape and killing of Uyinene Mrwetyana in August showed that the public want action.

“This begins with ensuring that police officers are properly trained to sensitively and objectively investigate incidents of gender-based violence. The government must also ensure that gender-based violence is taken seriously at every level of the justice system, including by challenging discriminatory stereotypes about victims and survivors.”

The findings form part of a large online survey – The Future of Humanity Poll – carried out by Ipsos MORI, on behalf of Amnesty International, which questioned more than 10,000 people aged 18-25 – also known as Generation Z – in 22 countries, including South Africa.

They were asked for their opinions on the current state of human rights in their country and the world, which issues they feel are most important and who they feel is responsible for addressing human rights abuses.

The main findings

In total, 57% of respondents in South Africa believe that violence against women is one of the country’s most important issues, with 55% citing corruption, and 41% violent crime. Thirty-two percent feel racial inequality is an important issue with economic stability and lack of access to quality education following at 27% and 23% respectively.

The environment

Sixty percent of respondents believe that water shortages are one of the most important environmental issues facing South Africa. Water quality (42%), air pollution (32%) and global warming (29%) follow.

“The worry about water shortages highlights that the effects of climate change are already being felt keenly,” said Shenilla Mohamed. “This highlights why global warming can no longer be seen as a side issue by those in authority, but must be wholly incorporated into policymaking.”

Business and human rights

Furthermore, 46% of young people in South Africa think that globally, the mining industry has one of the worst reputations for human rights violations among corporations, with 39% believing so of gun and weapons manufacturers and 30% of the tobacco industry.

 “Despite a 2018 court order prohibiting this, Amnesty International has seen first-hand how the government has put the interests of the mining industry above those of the Xolobeni community on the Wild Coast by pushing for the granting of a mining licence without the consent of the community,” said Mohamed.

Call for system change built on human rights

The majority of respondents want to live in a society that is accepting of people, no matter what their cultural background (83% agree) and think that the government is responsible for upholding human rights (78%). Interestingly, 65% of young people in South Africa think voting is an effective way to bring about human rights change, while donating to a human rights charity was most likely to be seen to be effective at 77%.

“This survey’s findings should act as a wake-up call to leaders. Gender-based violence, corruption and violent crime all run rampant in South Africa and leaders must take strong and decisive action immediately to protect the human rights of all,” said Mohamed.

 “South Africa’s leaders must begin 2020 with a serious commitment and meaningful action to address gender-based violence, corruption and violent crime.”


In September 2019 Amnesty commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct an online poll of young people aged 18-25 in 22 countries about their opinions on human rights and the state of the world. Fieldwork took place 6 September to 2 October 2019.

The countries covered span all six inhabited continents: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hungary, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tunisia, UK, Ukraine and USA.

Interviewing was done online using panels owned by Ipsos MORI and other panel providers. In most countries, c.500 respondents were interviewed, apart from Tunisia (395). Quotas were applied on gender and age and where panel size allowed, region to ensure a spread of interviews. No quotas were imposed in Tunisia. Data was post weighted by age, gender and region to known offline proportions. Region was excluded from Nigeria weights. Online samples in Argentina, Brazil, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine are more urban, more educated and/or more affluent than the general population and the results should be viewed as reflecting the views of a more “connected” population. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole percentage.

The full list of questions and results can be made available upon request.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Mienke Steytler, Media and Digital Content Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 11 283 6000 (office) or +27 64 890 9224 (mobile);