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Syracuse University

Publication Date

Fall 2012

Program Name

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights


Policing in South Africa has a long, twisted history that is still evident in some current police practices and especially in the public’s perceptions of the police. In addition to historical factors such as colonial rule and apartheid, people’s perceptions of the police are also affected by their race, class, gender, and geographic location. Although these factors’ can be considered to have an individual effect on perceptions, it is through a complex understanding of how they relate to one another that a true understanding of a person’s perception can be reached. The inspiration for this study stemmed from these concepts and its goal was to discover perceptions women in Cape Town have of the police and how these perceptions relate to race, class, gender and location. In order to determine this, two focus groups were conducted – one in Langa that included 7 women and one in Stellenbosch that included 5 women. The focus groups revealed four main themes: women’s perceptions of their overall safety, the way that class, as it relates to income, can be used to procure added security measures, that the police are perceived to be completely ineffective, and that race and its connections to gender have a great impact on perceptions of the police and of police treatment. Although the expected outcome of the study was that women would perceive they were treated poorly on the basis of their gender and further, that women in Stellenbosch, as the white upper class, would have a more positive perception of the police than women in Langa, as the black working class, this was not demonstrated by the findings. Instead, the focus groups revealed that all of the women felt unsafe in their areas, regardless of the location and that they believed the police to be totally ineffective, albeit for a variety of different reasons.


Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Other Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Politics and Social Change | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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