President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday called for an end to what he termed a violent war on women in South Africa and said a summit would be held at the end of the month to mull ways to stop it.
"In towns small and large, in cities, in homes, in schools, in colleges, in universities, in parks and open spaces, a war is being waged in South Africa on their right to security and equality. It is an affront to our common humanity," Ramaphosa told a Women's Day rally in Paarl in the Western Cape.
"We must get it into our heads that we don't own women, nor do we own their bodies, and we should not seek to dominate them."
He said the rampant emotional and physical abuse of women showed that government and society as a whole had failed to "live up to the promise of 1994" of a non-sexist, non-violent post-apartheid state.
"The assault on the dignity and integrity of women has reached unprecedented levels... there is a real danger that because violence against women has become so pervasive that as a society we have gradually become unmoved and stopped seeing it as an abhoration," the president said.
Ramaphosa called on the gathering, which had been addressed by a number of members of government, to observe a moment of silence for women who have been assaulted, raped and killed in numbers he compared badly to international average incidences of gender-based violence.
"We will stop this scourge of the killing of women, of the rape of women, of the violence perpetrated against the women of our country.
"We commit ourselves, as we head to the national gender summit, we will want to do good by the women of our country, but for now, as men, we hang our heads in shame," he said.
The national summit will be held on August 31.
In announcing it, Ramaphosa was heeding a demand by the #TotalShutDown gender rights movement, which last week marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against violence against women.
Ramaphosa said he was appalled at the conduct of two police officers during the march -- one who slapped a participant and another who insulted the marchers -- and has ordered Police Minister Bheki Cele to launch an investigation and ensure action was taken.
The president said he had been humbled by his interviews with rape survivors and felt hurt on their behalf for the insensitive attitude of some investigating officers who "made their trauma even worse".
He echoed a call by Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa for South Africans to ensure that boys were raised to respect women.
National crime statistics for 2017 indicated that an average 109 women are raped in South Africa daily.
August is celebrated as Women's Month in South Africa to commemorate the 1956 march by some 20,000 women to the Union Buildings to protest against the extension of the pass laws of segregation to African women.
Ramaphosa saluted women who had played key roles in the anti-apartheid struggle, from Albertina Sisulu to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Ruth First, Victoria Mxenge and Helen Suzman. He said the country should consider itself lucky to have iconic female liberation leaders but had not yet moved beyond a deep-rooted culture of patriarchy.