03/12/2012 – Interventions to empower women could reduce domestic abuse, says ACDP

Interventions to empower women could reduce domestic abuse, says ACDP

KwaZulu-Natal, December 3, 2012 – The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) today called on government to prioritise the empowerment of women as a means of reducing domestic abuse.

As part of its Vikiela (isiZulu: Protect) campaign, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) has identified domestic violence as an issue that needs to be addressed during the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Woman and Child Abuse campaign.

“We believe that violence against women is a manifestation of gender inequality,” said Jo-Ann Downs, national chairman of the ACDP and MPL in KwaZulu-Natal. “The culture of violence and sexism in South Africa perpetuates domestic abuse and silences victims, as many women are unaware of their rights and afraid of risking further violence by reporting incidents.”

Downs pointed to a study conducted in 2007, which showed that economic and social empowerment of women through training inclusive of microfinance, HIV infection, gender norms, domestic violence and sexuality, halved the instances of domestic violence by intimate partners over a two year period.

This enabled women to change their viewpoints on norms and to expect better treatment. It gave them the power and knowledge to leave their abusers and encouraged them to raise awareness among other women.

“Government can no longer simply hand out pamphlets on domestic violence,” said Downs. “It needs to actively undertake programs and interventions like this, which actually make a difference.”

She added that such interventions must ensure that women understand what constitutes domestic violence and what their rights are in this regard, such as the right to apply for a protection order.

According to the World Health Organisation, South Africa has one of the highest domestic violence rates in the world, with 60 000 women and children becoming victims of domestic violence each month. To account for unreported cases, NGOs estimate this figure at 100 000 instances per month. Research conducted by the Institute for Security Studies showed that 42.5 percent of women have experienced some form of domestic violence.

“Often it is difficult to show government why this issue is so important and why it needs to be addressed,” said Downs. “However, violence against women negatively impacts not only the women themselves but so many facets of society too.”

A 2004 study conducted in the USA placed the economic loss to GDP, directly due to violence against women, at $8.3-billion. This took into account medical costs, loss of productivity, cost of counseling families, days of absenteeism from the workforce and other factors.

If one calculates according to the estimated 100 000 instances of abuse per month in South Africa, and takes into account inflation since 2004, and the currency conversion, and the country’s lower average income, the ACDP estimates the cost of violence against women in South Africa at R10-billion annually.

“Economic loss is only one consequence of violence against women, which includes domestic violence,” Downs said. “The health, safety and welfare of communities are other factors that also suffer and the psychological disorders exhibiting in children who witness domestic violence.”

Downs urged women who are being abused, or those that suspect or know of a woman being abused, to act before it is too late. “Women need to enforce their rights – and if the police do not respond adequately, this needs to be reported to the Independent Complaints Directorate,” she said.


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