Gender Links (Johannesburg)

South Africa: Multi-Pronged Approach Needed to Reduce Gender-Based Violence

Photo: Radio Okapi
File photo: The Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign that runs annually from 25 November to 10 December is this year running under the banner "from peace in the home to peace in the world: Let's challenge militarism and end violence against women."

Patriarchal norms and attitudes including those that excuse or legitimate the use of violence are driving the alarming rates of gender based violence (GBV) in South Africa. This is one of the topline findings of the GBV indicators research carried out in Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape provinces of South Africa (SA) by Gender Links (GL) between 2010 and 2012. The research measures the extent, effects, response and prevention of violence against women perpetrated by men.

As the 2012 Sixteen Days Campaign kicks off, GL urges the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD) to launch and allocate a substantive budget for the proposed National GBV Council. GL further urges the government to cascade the research to the remaining five provinces of South Africa, to establish a national baseline against which to measure progress towards the attainment of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) target of halving GBV by 2015.

Seventy seven percent of women in Limpopo, 51% of women in Gauteng, 45% of women in Western Cape and 36% of women in KwaZulu Natal have experienced some form of violence (emotional, economic, physical or sexual) in their lifetime both within and outside intimate relationships.

A higher proportion of men in Gauteng (76%) and KwaZulu Natal (41%) admitted to perpetrating violence against women in their lifetime. A slightly lower proportion of men, compared to the proportion of women reporting GBV said they perpetrated GBV in Limpopo (48%) and Western Cape (35%). Comparing what women say they experience to what men say they do confirms that gender violence is a reality in SA.

The majority of violence reported occurred within womenand men's private lives. Fifty one percent of ever-partnered women in Gauteng, 51% of women in Limpopo, 44% of women in Western Cape and 29% of women in KwaZulu Natal reported experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. The low prevalence of GBV reported by women in KwaZulu Natal is indicative of an even bigger problem that women may not be openly disclosing their experiences.

However, women are also vulnerable to violence in public life. Twelve percent of women in Gauteng; 6% of women in Western Cape; 5% of women in Limpopo and 5% of women in KwaZulu Natal reported experiencing non-partner rape in their lifetime. The proportion of men reporting rape perpetration in the four provinces is significantly higher than the proportion of women reporting experience.In Gauteng, 31% of men admitted to have raped a woman at least once in their lifetime.

Over half (59%) of women in Limpopo, 5% of women in KwaZulu Natal, 5% of women in Western Cape and 2.7% of women in Gauteng who had ever worked reported being sexually harassed. They disclosed that a man either hinted or threatened that they would lose their job if they did not have sex with him; or they would have to have sex with him in order to get a job.

Almost two thirds (65.9%) of women in Limpopo, 2% of women in KwaZulu Natal, 1.4% of women in Gauteng and 1.2% of women in Western Cape who had attended school said the experienced sexual harassment at school.The extremely high prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace and at school in Limpopo province warrants further research.

The Limpopo research shows that women in the province suffer from GBV related to witch-hunting. This occurs when communities blame deaths, or sicknesses or other misfortunes in their community on witchcraft. Women constitute the vast majority of witchcraft. Those accused experience multiple effects including emotional, trauma, injury, being forced to leave home or relocate and loss or damage to property. Communities continue to unite in plans to exterminate women suspected of witchcraft.

In the Western Cape, the research shows that women are being forced or initiated into drug intake by their intimate partners. At times, drug intake becomes an effect as abused women attempt to escape the trauma that comes with gender violence. In KwaZulu Natal, women are not speaking out about gender violence. Generally literacy levels are low thus knowledge on the forms of abuse, women's rights and where to get help barely reaches these women. They actually uphold and affirm patriarchy.

The research shows that reactionary attitudes and beliefs in communities fuel the incidences of GBV. High proportions of women and men agreed that a woman should obey her husband. However, the proportion of women agreeing to the notion of wife obedience in each of the sites is lower than men's, showing that women are slightly more progressive than men

The indicators research findings provide invaluable evidence required to review the 365 Day South African National Action Plan to End GBV. A report released by the Commission on Gender Equality last week found that government efforts towards implementing the plan have been fragmented and lacked a dedicated budget.

Activists are urging that the long-delayed National GBVCouncil, to be chaired by Deputy President KgalemaMotlanthe, be announced during the Sixteen Days. The high level, multi-sector Council is modeled on the South African National AIDS Council.

GL is also calling on local government needs to allocate financial resources for context specific prevention and awareness raising initiatives using the findings from the indicators research. Advocacy programmes must be targeted at changing women's and men's attitudes towards gender relations. Engaging men and youth in the fight to reduce levels of gender based violence cannot be underrated.

To view The War @ home: Findings of the Gender Based Violence Prevalence Study in Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo Provinces of South Africa, http://www.genderlinks.org.za/page/16-days-of-activism-2012. For more information call Mercilene Machisa on 00 27 11 622 2877 or email gbvindicators@genderlinks.org.za

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