Intimate femicide–suicide in South Africa: a cross-sectional study
Shanaaz Mathews, Naeemah Abrahams, Rachel Jewkes, Lorna J Martin, Carl Lombard, Lisa Vetten
To examine the incidence and patterns of intimate femicide–suicide in South Africa and to describe the factors associated with an increase in the risk of suicide after intimate femicide (i.e. the killing of an intimate female partner).
A cross-sectional retrospective national mortuary-based study was conducted at a proportionate random sample of 25 legal laboratories to identify all homicides committed in 1999 of women aged over 13 years. Data were collected from the mortuary file, autopsy report and a police interview.
Among 1349 perpetrators of intimate femicide,19.4% committed suicide within a week of the murder. Suicide after intimate femicide was more likely if the perpetrator was from a white rather than an African racial background (odds ratio, OR: 5.8; 95% confidence interval, CI: 1.21–27.84); was employed as a professional or white-collar worker rather than a blue-collar worker (OR: 37.28; 95% CI: 5.82–238.93); and owned a legal gun rather than not owning a legal gun (OR: 45.26; 95% CI: 8.33–245.8). The attributable fraction shows that 91.5% of the deaths of legal gun-owning perpetrators and their victims may have been averted if this group of perpetrators did not own a legal gun.
South Africa has a rate of intimate femicide–suicide that exceeds reported rates for other countries. This study highlights the public health impact of legal gun ownership in cases of intimate femicide–suicide.