You’ve heard them before. They’re the type of stats that you hear and shake your head in disbelief. For example, you’re more likely to die from eating shark than from being eaten by a shark. Can you believe it? If you can believe that what do the stats say for ordinary South Africans. What are our chances?

Well, you must remember that they vary. They vary depending on your age, race, gender and sexuality. But here are a few scary statistics that I think warrant a little bit of attention.

South Africa loves women. Women make up about 51% of our population. They have incredible access to rights according to the law, and a really high chance of being seduced by and or marrying the president.

Even scarier is that in South Africa a woman is more likely to be raped than learn to read.

So next time you pick up a book, newspaper or magazine and have a flip through it, think about that statistic.

But there’s more about women. Women carry most of the burden of care for HIV. To be fair, they are more likely to have the time because our patriarchal modes of thinking mean that a man is still more likely to get the job, or to be better paid than a woman in a similar position. So of the 51% of the rainbow nation that is female, the unemployment rate is more than 30%. Nevertheless, caring for the sick is not an easy job, particularly when South Africa carries about 17% of the world’s HIV burden despite accounting for only 0.7% of the world’s population.

It’s quite difficult to imagine how else things could be when your old president and health minister advised madumbis and garlic over ARVs, and your new president is afraid of a little bit of rubber. Then again, how can you remember to say the right thing about HIV when, like our old health minister, you’re often drunk.

Drinking is one of South Africa’s favourite pastimes. In fact we love it so much that we like to do other things while drunk. One of those is driving. The feeling of the wind in our hair and the Klippies in our hand is quite like no other. That’s why When you drive on the road at night 1 out of 7 cars on the road with you is being driven by a drunk driver.

But don’t worry, if you have been drinking, you’re one of the 7. So watch out for the sober guy driving in his lane. A**hole. Put on your seat-belt though, because there are plenty of pesky pedestrians out there who want to wander into the road after their own papsak. Which is why 50% of people who die on the roads are drunk.

But driving isn’t the only thing we like to do while drunk. Next up on the list we go back to women. When people get drunk they love a little barney. The best person to beat up it appears is your spouse or live-in partner, I suppose proximity has a lot to do with this. In any case, the Medical Research Council tells us that in a study of women abused by their spouses, 69% identified alcohol/drug abuse as the main cause of conflict leading to the abuse.


But the scariest part of these statistics is the huge amount of human agency involved in them. Some men decide to rape women. Some interviewers decide not to believe that women can do the same job men do. Some people just have that last sip of booze before jumping behind the wheel. Some men decide to drink a little more, ignore the rights of women and wind back their fist for the next punch.

The good thing … if there are choices, people can choose differently.


  • Jennifer is a feminist, activist and advocate for women's rights. She has a Masters in Politics from Rhodes University, and a Masters in Creative Writing from UCT. In 2010 she started a women's writing project called 'My First Time'. It focuses on women's stories of significant first time experiences. Buy the book on the site or via Modjaji Books. Jen's first novel, The Peculiars, came out in February 2016 and is published by Penguin. Get it in good book stores, and on


Jen Thorpe

Jennifer is a feminist, activist and advocate for women's rights. She has a Masters in Politics from Rhodes University, and a Masters in Creative Writing from UCT. In 2010 she started a women's writing...

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