Module 5

Women and Guns

the issue of femicide and gun violence in the home

Module 5

Women and Guns

the issue of femicide and gun violence in the home


Women and guns

Women make up just 11% of all gun-related murder victims in South Africa. Most South African women who fall victim to gun violence are killed with a legal gun owned by an intimate partner — a current or former husband, boyfriend, same-sex partner or rejected would-be lover. This is called intimate femicide.

In many areas of South Africa, women are perceived to have lower social value and power, and that men have the right to control women. This can lead to intimate partner violence (IPV).

IPV is a particular form of gender-based violence, and includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by a current or former intimate partner or spouse.

Research shows that living in a house with a gun increases the risk of gun violence. In cases of intimate partner assault, death is 12 times more likely if there is a gun involved.
Guns in the home
Gun use in intimate partner violence usually escalates over time. In fact, international research shows that most victims of femicide have been threatened with a firearm before they were shot. The four main types of threatening gun-related behaviour used by men are:
  • Threatening to shoot their partner.
  • Cleaning, holding or loading a gun during an argument.
  • Threatening to shoot a person or pet the partner cares about.
  • Shooting a gun during an argument with their partner.
How to stop intimate partner violence
How to remove a gun from a person
Prevention is better than cure


GBV is violence that is directed at a person based on his or her biological sex, or gender identity. Examples of gender-based violence include sexual abuse of children, rape, intimate partner violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls, and harmful traditional practices such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. 


Intimate partner violence and gun deaths are particularly high in families where men use a gun for work, such as in the police, army or private security industry.


You can apply for a protection order if you are in an abusive or violent domestic relationship. A protection order is a court order that tells an abuser to stop the abuse and sets certain conditions preventing the abuser from harassing or abusing the victim again. You can start the process by visiting your nearest police station.

The oscar pistorius trial

The case of Oscar Pistorius, the former Paralympian who was convicted of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, shows how her death could have been avoided. During the trial it emerged that he once shot his gun out of the sunroof of a car while traveling with other passengers. On another occasion he discharged his gun while sitting in a restaurant — a public space. If action had been taken following these incidents, he would have been proven unfit to own a gun and his girlfriend’s death may have been avoided.


Facts and figures highlighting the impact of guns and gun violence in South Africa.


Don’t believe everything you hear about guns. Here are some common myths you should be aware of.

The biggest risk for a woman is stranger danger.

Fact: A national study found that more women (57%) were murdered by their husbands and boyfriends than by strangers.

You cannot tell when a woman is in danger of being killed by her partner or former partner.

Fact: If there are signs of an abusive relationship and especially if there is a gun in the house, a woman is in danger of being killed.

A legal gun in the home protects women, it is illegal guns that are used in domestic violence.

Fact: Research has shown that legal gun ownership significantly increases the risk of intimate femicide-suicide, with two-thirds (66%) of intimate femicide-suicide perpetrators in 1999 owning a legal gun.

If you safely store your legal gun at home, then there is no risk.

Fact: No matter how guns are stored, what type or how many you own, having a gun in your home significantly increases the risk of death for you, your spouse and your children.

Take Action

Together, we can make a difference to reduce gun violence and help create safer communities for us all.

Know the law, use the law, save a life

If you or someone you know is in a relationship where there is a risk of violence, take action to have the gun removed immediately by the police or the magistrate's court.

Don’t turn a blind eye to gender based violence

Offer support and seek help from an organisation near you.

Stand up to men who are being abusive

We all need to say no when men are verbally, emotionally or physically abusive to their female partners. We need to spread the message that violence against women is unacceptable.

Support the international #GunFreeValentine campaign

This runs from 14 February until 8 March (International Women’s Day) and aims to alert women to the risks of a gun in the home and how the law can be used to remove guns from the home.

Our Donors

This publication was made possible with the support of the DG Murray Trust and the Raith Foundation.


Contact Us

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Address: Gun Free South Africa,
P.O. Box 3048, Killarney, 2193,
Johannesburg, South Africa


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