1 in 3 women experience violence in their lifetime. According to a 2013 WHO report a staggering 45.6% of women 15 years and older in Africa have experienced intimate partner violence (physical and/or sexual) or non-partner sexual violence or both, the highest prevalence in the world.

Gender based violence (GBV) is violence against women and girls. Violence is not physical; it can also be sexual, psychological or economic harm. It is a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and girls.

 

Effects of GBV

There are multiple effects of GBV on a personal and community level. Intimate partner violence effects physical, mental sexual and reproductive health. It increases exposure to HIV, exposure to sexually transmitted infection, depression, suicide and harmful alcohol use. The health effects of exposure to non-intimate partner violence are depression, anxiety and alcohol use disorder. The effects of GBV on a professional level can result in decreased productivity and withdrawal.

WHO report 2013

Why is GBV so prevalent in Africa?

There are a number of reasons why the scourge of GBV is high on the continent however this article will focus on two factors unique to Africa.

 

Culture and tradition

Culture and tradition have a profound effect on the high statistics of GBV in Africa. Cultural theories and practices shape and frame gender identities and norms. Generally African culture views women as less equal to men. Further wives are viewed as property of her husband and his family in African culture. This unequal and discriminatory view of women has a negative effect on the relations between men and women in Africa that can manifest in GBV. It also frames the masculine identity of men that they can impose their views and actions on the “lesser” being – women. This framed masculine identity also empowers them to discipline and control women. Tradition is passed down from generation to generation in both rural and urban settings. In this way, harmful cultural beliefs are a contributing factor to the high rate of GBV across the continent.

 

Poverty

Although GBV affects women from all socioeconomic groups, it has strong ties to poverty. Men who live in poverty or who are socially excluded are frustrated and angry because they cannot earn an income or find a job. Frustration and anger can trigger GBV.

 

Our recommendations

We call on African governments to

  • Prioritise the issue of GBV and its related links to poverty and development;
  • Enact legislation that directly and indirectly address GBV;
  • Commit to national, provincial and local campaigns and interventions that support and protect women exposed to GBV;
  • Roll out interventions and campaigns targeted at men to educate and address GBV;
  • Enact legislation and undertake campaigns to ensure traditional laws are aligned with the values and spirit of the Constitution and International Human Rights instruments.

 

We call on NGOs to

  • Prioritise anti-GBV campaigns and interventions;
  • Have cohesive outlook on the matter and fill the gaps in order to reach all people;
  • Offer holistic services that not only focus on GBV but also connecting factors.