All you need to know about GBV in SA

Violence against women, has expectedly, increased dramatically since the pandemic hit South Africa and lockdown regulation was enforced. Over the weeks we saw abuse of women and children spike and several rapes and murders hit the news as the country moved into level 3 with the alcohol ban being lifted. There has been over 5000 GBV cases reported in Gauteng between March and April.

This is not strictly attributed to the pandemic, while it has severely aggravated the problem, this has been a long-standing social issue in South Africa. I strongly believe that with education people are able to affectively advocate against this and lower this statistic. This blog aims to do just that and provide vital information to reference against GBV.


You can consider it as a result of gender inequality in society, traditionalist views and opinions of gender roles in certain cultures and religions, or simply the brutality against women by men. It is appropriately defined as the general term to reference 'violence that occurs as a result of the normative role expectations associated with each gender, along with the unequal power relationships between genders, within a specific society'.

This can be simplified further, with reference to patriarchal power structures where men are seen to be 'leaders' and dominant, holding majority of power. This is a social and political system that treats and perceives men superior to women 'where women cannot protect their bodies, meet their basic needs, participate fully in society and men perpetrate violence against women with impunity'.


It is important to note that there are several different forms of violence that occurs in specific societies, and most of the time they are gender-related. GBV can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or structural and 'can be perpetrated by partners, acquaintances, strangers and institutions'. However, most of these acts are performed against women. This type of violence is commonly referred to as Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). This is currently the main problem in SA.

However, there is violence against all genders including those of the LGBTI community. In short, GBV can be experienced by people who don't follow the social norms attached to gender roles, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex people.

Other forms of GBV include:

  • Intimate partner violence (IPV): Abuse within the relationship that is either physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by all types of couples (heterosexual or same-sex couples).

  • Domestic violence (DV): Found within close families and couples and may be in the form of one or several forms of abuse.

  • Sexual violence (SV): Abuse against a person's sexuality, without consent or acceptance. This violence is not limited to relationships or families, it is also experienced among strangers.


South Africa has significantly higher rates of GBV, in comparison to the rest of the world, including VAWG and LGBTI violence. The below statistics was taken off the website and I felt it important to list it in this article as reference:

  • Whilst people of all genders perpetrate and experience intimate partner and or sexual violence, men are most often the perpetrators and women and children the victims.

  • More than half of all the women murdered (56%) in 2009 were killed by an intimate male partner.

  • Between 25% and 40% of South African women have experienced sexual and/or physical IPV in their lifetime.

  • Just under 50% of women report having ever experienced emotional or economic abuse at the hands of their intimate partners in their lifetime.

  • Prevalence estimates of rape in South Africa range between 12% and 28% of women ever reporting being raped in their lifetime.

  • Between 28 and 37% of adult men report having raped a women.

  • Non-partner SV is particularly common, but reporting to police is very low. One study found that one in 13 women in Gauteng had reported non-partner rape, and only one in 25 rapes had been reported to the police.

  • South Africa also faces a high prevalence of gang rape.

  • Most men who rape do so for the first time as teenagers and almost all men who ever rape do so by their mid-20s.

  • There is limited research into rape targeting women who have sex with women. One study across four Southern African countries, including South Africa, found that 31.1% of women reported having experienced forced sex.

  • Male victims of rape are another under-studied group. One survey in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape found that 9.6% of men reported having experienced sexual victimisation by another man.


Not only does this affect the lives of innocent people, and cause the death of many, but it also affects the economy and the psychological / mental and physical health of our society.

Beyond being a profound violation of the basic human rights it has major repercussions for the survivors of such violence, their families, communities and society in general.

More specifically, survivors of gender-based face psychological trauma. In South Africa there isn't sufficient access to formal psychosocial or even medical support, therefore survivors are unable to get adequate help in order to recover fully.

Jewkes and colleagues outline the following impacts of GBV and violence for South Africa as a society more broadly:

(12 Jewkes, R., et al. Preventing Rape and Violence in South Africa: Call for Leadership in A New Agenda For Action. MRC Policy Brief, 2009).

  • An estimated 1.75 million people annually seek health care for injuries resulting from violence

  • An estimated 16% of all HIV infections in women could be prevented if women did not experience domestic violence from their partners.

  • Men who have been raped have a long term increased risk of acquiring HIV and are at risk of alcohol abuse, depression and suicide.

  • Reproductive health - women who have been raped are at risk of unwanted pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

  • Mental health - over a third of women who have been raped develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which if untreated persists in the long term and depression, suicidality and substance abuse are common.

  • Men who have been raped are at risk of alcohol abuse, depression and suicide.Violence also has significant economic consequences.

  • The high rate of GBV places a heavy burden on the health and criminal justice systems, as well as rendering many survivors unable to work or otherwise move freely in society.


Several GBV prevention programmes which have support for effectiveness have been implemented in South Africa. A summary of the prevention programmes mentioned below can be found in the South African Crime Quarterly 51: Primary prevention (see table on pgs. 35-38):

  • Thula Sana: Promote mothers’ engagement in sensitive, responsive interactions with their infants

  • The Sinovuyo Caring Families Programme: Improve the parent–child relationship, emotional regulation, and positive behaviour management approaches

  • Prepare: Reduce sexual risk behaviour and intimate partner violence, which contribute to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs)

  • Skhokho Supporting Success: Prevent IPV among young teenagers

  • Stepping Stones: Promote sexual health, improve psychological wellbeing and prevent HIV

  • Stepping Stones / Creating Futures: Reduce HIV risk behaviour and victimisation and perpetration of different forms of IPV and strengthen livelihoods.

  • Commission for Gender Equality: Promotes respect for gender equality and the protection, development and attainment of gender equality.

In conclusion, an important part of addressing GBV is developing the evidence base of cases to aid in the justice process. 'For example, several civil society organisations are working with women’s groups to build their agency and empower them to address the issues that impact their lives, such as structural and interpersonal violence. Others are tackling specific drivers of GBV, such as substance abuse and gangsterism. Still others take a “whole community” approach to dealing with GBV, involving community members and leaders in the fight against violence in their communities.' At the same time, as a society, we can work together to find new ways to address GBV, building the current evidence base and responding to this national crisis.