Changing laws not enough: Intimate partner violence a result of gender inequality, alcohol abuse - experts

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) hosted a panel of experts to virtually deliberate on the country’s femicide legislation on Wednesday.
The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) hosted a panel of experts to virtually deliberate on the country’s femicide legislation on Wednesday.
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  • Experts have told Parliament that laws alone will not curb the gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide.
  • Gender inequality, alcohol abuse among men and inefficient gun control are major factors that lead to GBV.
  • According to some experts, there is currently no reliable estimate on the prevalence of GBV.


A legal response to gender-based violence (GBV) is not enough to curb femicide in South Africa, experts say, as government grapples to deal with the crisis.

Gender inequality, alcohol abuse and inefficient gun control are just some of the major factors that lead to men abusing women.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) hosted a panel of experts to virtually deliberate on the country’s femicide legislation on Wednesday.

Director of the University of Cape Town’s Children Institute Professor Shanaaz Matthews said laws alone won’t work.

"In South Africa… what we know is that intimate femicide is the leading cause of female homicide. In fact, what the work of the South African Medical Research Council has shown us is that it is double the global homicide rate. Intimate femicide in SA is the most extreme form, as well as consequence, of intimate partner violence. Most importantly, the killing of an intimate partner is not an isolated event. Its more likely to occur in the context of gender inequality," she said.

READ | Abusers should be forced out of homes, not survivors, says Cele

"A legal response is not enough. We have to think about addressing, responding and ending femicide holistically. Therefore, we need to think about prevention early, to prevent the risk of femicide later."

Matthews said the social environment and cultural backgrounds in South Africa provided the space for tolerance of men’s violence towards women.

"We have seen from 1999 to 2009, the percentage of intimate femicides have increased. In our 2009 work, what we have seen is that overall, the female homicide rates have come down very much in keeping with overall homicide in South Africa. One of the reasons for this is really is that there was a significant lowering of both gun homicides for both intimate, as well as non-intimate femicides,” she said.

Earlier this month, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola announced that three bills intended to curb gender-based violence would be introduced in August.

One of the bills will allow for the online application of protection orders if passed.

READ ALSO | SANDF not immune to gender-based violence, says Mapisa-Nqakula

Professor Rachel Jewkes, executive scientist at the South African Medical Research Council, said currently there is no reliable estimate on the prevalence of GBV and intimate partner violence.

"We really need to drill down and not assume that even if we come up with national prevalence statistics that they will pertain an all populations within the country. We don’t know how reliable the demographic and health survey figures are. These surveys have been reliable in some other countries and they tend to underestimate prevalence. But the feeling in the community of South Africa is that the figure is probably quite a substantial underestimate," she said.

NCOP deputy chairperson Sylvia Lucas said a comprehensive response will be drafted by ministers in the peace and security cluster.

"We will continue discussions on timeframes and what would work effectively to make sure that we change society in its totality and that we move away from our past and also what is currently prevailing even during this time of lockdown. We need to start building a cohesive society where woman and children as well as the vulnerable will feel and be safe," she said.

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