Lockdown: GBV cases could drop after booze sales ban, but curfew may limit victims' options - CSVR

The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) believes the ban on alcohol and re-implementation of a curfew will pose a challenge for women in abusive homes.
The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) believes the ban on alcohol and re-implementation of a curfew will pose a challenge for women in abusive homes.
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  • The CSVR believes while it is well and good for alcohol to be banned again, it also causes great trouble at homes where men will be frustrated and women become victims. 
  • An increase of women seeking assistance from shelters was seen during Level 3 lockdown. 
  • The alcohol ban will also result in children being taken care of. 

While the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) believes the ban on alcohol and re-implementation of a curfew will pose a challenge for women in abusive homes, other social justice organisations say the moves will decrease the levels of gender-based violence (GBV) and child abuse.

Reacting to President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement on Sunday regarding another ban on liquor, CSVR director Nomfundo Mogapi said the centre welcomed the decision, although she believed it would result in women being "stuck" in violent homes. 

The sale of liquor was first banned when South Africa went into a hard lockdown, at alert Level 5, from 26 March. The ban was eventually lifted on 1 June when the country moved to Level 3. The night-time curfew was also lifted.

On Sunday, Ramaphosa announced to "conserve hospital capacity", the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet had decided the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol "will be suspended with immediate effect". 

READ SPEECH IN FULL | Covid-19 spread through recklessness - Ramaphosa as he bans booze, enforces curfew

The government's decision followed calls by leaders in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape to have the ban reinstated.

They argued the sale of the booze led to greater levels of alcohol consumption which resulted in a higher number of trauma cases, saying data from hospitals showed these emergencies were stretching the pandemic-hit healthcare system even further.

There were also numerous reports and anecdotes of people hosting house parties as well as visiting relatives and friends. 

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Mogapi said women could now face the threat of both physical and emotional abuse by partners who could be more volatile due to limited or no access to alcohol as an escape.

"Even the curfew, we really understand why it is important and that big gatherings are a high risk for Covid-19, but we also know that when these men are forced to being in their homes, the likelihood of the violence to increase is high. 

"But not only that, it gets difficult for the women to escape because some of the women have said that when these men go out for the alcohol, that's when they can be able to escape, but this makes it even more difficult. It even becomes difficult for them to pick up a phone". 

Mogapi said the government was doing well in its interventions to decrease the spread of the virus, but believes some of the strategies used to fight the pandemic could also be used to fight another deadly scourge - sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). 

As CSVR we had been saying that the way we have responded as the country to how we dealing with Covid-19, there are [also] things we can learn to deal with SGBV. For example we are sending community healthcare workers to screen for Covid-19. Why don't we use a similar infrastructure so that as they go to these homes, they are also able to screen for women that are at risk.
-CSVR director Nomfundo Mogapi

She added the organisation had seen increased levels of trauma during the lockdown period, with some of these incidents being perpetrated by men who had lost their jobs or experienced other sudden significant changes.

Mogapi said the centre had also noted with the lockdown in place, it was difficult for women to reach out for help or escape. 

"Also speak to these men who are now stuck in their homes about their own trauma that is likely to be triggered and how they are likely to be more violent. So we can't just only have a response to curb Covid-19, which then creates another problem without a strategy on how we are going to address that problem.

"In South Africa, we have men who have high levels of toxic masculinity and [losing jobs] makes them feel worthless and useless and of course the target [then] becomes the women," she added. 

Trends in women shelters

Meanwhile, the executive head of the National Shelter Movement, Dr Zubeda Dangor, said when alcohol was banned during Level 5, there were not as many women going to shelters, but the trend changed immediately when the ban was lifted.

She added under Level 3, many women started seeking help at shelters, which had led to more cases of infections being reported at the facilities.

Dangor said the movement supported the government's decision to ban the sale of alcohol again as it believed liquor exacerbated violence against women and hoped it would decrease the abuse rate.

"GBV has been a pandemic for much longer than the coronavirus. We really took the coronavirus seriously and I don't think GBV was taken that seriously, maybe more so now.

"But I think that at the level of implementation, we need to get really serious about making sure that there are enough services for women. That women are made aware that they don't have to wait and should try to get help as soon as they start identifying that they are in abusive relationships and not to wait," she added. 

Children

Speaking on children, the advocacy manager for Women and Men Against Child Abuse, Luke Lamprecht, said the ban on alcohol could decrease the levels of abuse aimed at them.

He added they were also now likely to witness less violence at home. 

"Children are less likely to be physically harmed if the adults are more in control of themselves through not drinking alcohol. We do believe that there will be a decrease in things not done for children as well as things done to children due to a decrease in alcohol. We know that alcohol, child abuse and neglect are related". 

Lamprecht said a defined programme to fight the scourge of GBV and child abuse would require a restructuring of every element of society, adding the mindset used to fight Covid-19 could also be applied to GBV.

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