Below you will find a brief summary of the research pertaining to our project, however, the documentary created in relation to this research and that should be considered the main body of this project can be accessed through the following link:

36s to Get Out link –


In today’s global community, migration is a progressively important sociopolitical issue. Geopolitical crises and economic hardship have resulted in the changing of migratory movements. In the past two decades, migration has cemented its place as a significant global challenge, potential opportunity, and a pivotal phenomenon that is shaping the demographic profile of countries. The number of individuals habiting outside their country of birth is now increasing faster than the world population’s growth rate. There has been a significant change in the way in which we view migration too, particularly with regard to gender. Migration literature and research have largely been focused on men, as men have made up the majority of the migration cohort. As female migration increases, there is a need to comprehensively understand the migratory dynamics of this cohort[1]. My research focuses on the migration dynamics of women in South Africa, with an emphasis on the social factors that make up a proportion of the push factors for female migration in South Africa.

An increasingly more relevant topic in the field of gender migratory patterns is that of the feminization of migration. A changing pattern has emerged not only in Africa but worldwide, whereby many women are not only migrating but are also migrating on their own as opposed to within the traditional family units. The historical pattern of migration within and from Africa, predominantly dominated by males, is becoming feminized. South African women have been seen to be increasingly moving within and outside their country, primarily for economic reasons and protection. The number of migratory women aged 15–64 increased from 16,9 million in 2012 to 18 million in 2017. My research has focused on understanding the effects of elements of social discord on female migration patterns, particularly focusing on gender-based violence within South African society and its effectiveness as a migratory push factor.

Gender-based violence as a migratory push factor

The European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE) defines gender-based violence as “violence directed against a person because of their gender.”[2] The term “gender-based violence” has been more accurately described as “violence against women” and both terms are seemingly used interchangeably due to the majority of gender-related violence having been committed against women​. The relationship between gender-based violence and migration has historically been studied in the context of gender-based violence being a risk for female migratory cohorts and not as the catalyst for their migration. Furthermore, gender-based violence existing within the social structures of society is rarely studied as a migratory push factor, rather the majority of migratory studies pertain to violence and gender-based violence focusing on isolated events responsible for spikes in female migration.

The consequences of gender-based violence are extensively studied, with a consensus as to their ability to influence the security of the individual and society. Both direct and indirect consequences have been observed that can result in an environment conducive to a woman choosing migration as a response[3]. Direct consequences predominantly deal with the individual with physical and psychological damage inflicted upon the victims being among the more obvious deterrence in continued habitation. Indirect consequences, including pressure exerted on the healthcare system as a result of the correlation between HIV and Gender-based violence and an unwillingness to participate in the labour market due to fear of gender-based violence, are some of the factors that can contribute to a society that is less hospitable for female and cause a desire to migrate.

My research has found that data concerning gender-based violence in Africa is lacking, particularly the one pertaining to migration, however present and prevalent the topic might be. This lack of data is primarily due to the social conditions that prevent women from reporting acts of gender-based violence, which is evident in the estimate that in 2018/2019 stated that only one in nine cases of rape were reported in South Africa.

According to the Global Protection Cluster Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons, the prominence and quantity of gender-based violence can be partially but not solely attributed to two characteristics. The first of which is “discriminatory social, cultural or religious laws, norms and practices that marginalize women and girls and fail to respect their rights” and the second is a “lack of confidence and/or trust in social or public institutions, including law enforcement and justice institutions that discourage victims/survivors from seeking redress.”​ [4]It is with these factors in mind that we will attempt to analyze the correlation between gender-based violence and female migration patterns in South Africa.

Gender-based violence as a migratory push factor: Discriminatory social, cultural or religious laws, norms and practices that marginalize women and girls and fail to respect their rights

Social norms, particularly those pertaining to the different values placed on men and women, are extremely influential in South African society. The elements contained within gender-based violence, particularly what has become a “rape culture” are historical and traditional norms in South African society. Numerous surveys of small groups have found a general acceptance of this phenomenon specifically among the male population. During the interviewing of 20 South African men conducted by Yandisa Sikweyiya, Rachel Jewkes and Robert Morrell, “most participants expressed fairly traditional rape-supportive attitudes”[5]. The concept of gender-based violence being acceptable within traditional South African ideology is further supported by reports that three women are killed every day at the hands of their partners and 40% of South African men admit to committing acts of sexual violence against women. The presence of gender-based violence at the roots of South African society undoubtedly creates an environment that lacks safety for the female population and plays a role in their willingness to stay in that environment.

Gender-based violence as a migratory push factor: lack of confidence and/or trust in social or public institutions, including law enforcement and justice institutions that discourage victims/survivors from seeking redress

South African public institutions have historically had a reputation for corruption and violence in particular when analyzing their relationship with the female population. The female mistrust of the justice system in South Africa could potentially be attributed to the historical tendency of a lack of due process and the numerous cases where police are in fact the perpetrators of gender-based violence. Disturbingly there are numerous examples of gender-based violence taking place at the hand of the police. In an article published in the GlobalPost by Erin Conway-Smith entitled “South African police officers accused of detaining women in order to rape them”, Ms Conway-Smith lists a number of cases of rape by the South African Police and elaborates further by saying “in a number of incidents reported by media, a police officer would stop a young woman in a public place, before taking her away to be raped in the back of a police vehicle and then setting her free​”. In addition to this, it is evident that the process of reporting gender-based violence very rarely results in justice for the victim[6]. Statistically, of the 150 rapes reported to the police a day, only ten culprits will be prosecuted. What’s even more concerning is that only an estimated one out of nine rapes are reported, meaning that theoretically there are 1350 rapes committed a day and only ten perpetrators will be prosecuted, resulting in the probability of a rape victim finding justice of only 0.74%. This lack of an effective due process of the authority tasked with maintaining a safe environment for women in South Africa can therefore be seen as a push factor in the female cohorts’ desire to leave that environment.

[1] Risenga Malulek, “Migration Dynamics of Women, Children and the Elderly in South Africa,” Statistics South Africa (2020), p. 58: (accessed November 30, 2020).

[2] European Institute for Gender Equality. (2013). ​Gender Equality Index report​. EIGE.

[3] ​Dunkle, K. L., Jewkes, R. K., Brown, H. C., Gray, G. E., McIntryre, J. A., & Harlow, S. D. (2004). Gender-based violence, relationship power, and risk of HIV infection in women attending antenatal clinics in South Africa. ​The lancet​, ​363​(9419), 1415-1421.

[4] Global Protection Cluster (GPC), ​Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons​, June 2010, available at:

[5] Sikweyiya, Yandisa & Jewkes, Rachel & Morrell, Robert. (2007). ​Talking about rape: South African men’s responses to questions about rape.

[6] Conway-Smith, E. (2015, 01 29). South African police officers were accused of detaining women in order to rape them. ​GlobalPost.​ them










Matthew Cleary
Matthew Cleary is a student at Sapienza University of Rome, his love of history drove him to attend the GHL.

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