SA Leads in Number of Women Killed by Their Partners. 6/5/2016

Published by IOL

Pretoria - SOUTH Africa has the highest number of women who are killed by their partners. Cultural and social norms are said to be at the centre of this dilemma which is deemed the most extreme consequence of intimate partner violence (IPV).

A woman died every eight hours in South Africa, and of those murdered, 50% were killed by their intimate partners. But the numbers were not the most devastating factor of IPV: “The physical, mental and social consequences remain hidden. Cultural and societal norms are highly influential in shaping behaviour in intimate relationships; they can protect against violence or support and encourage it,” an IPV policy brief report compiled by experts from the universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch said.

Men were the biggest perpetrators of IPV, in a pattern that also affected pregnant women. “Between 36% and 40% of pregnant women experience physical IPV, while 15% to 19% are sexually violated by their partners.” Therefore pregnant women, the report said, “were faced with many physical and mental health consequences and they included the loss of the unborn baby, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder”.

The violence increased risks for the baby, who could be born pre-term and with low birth weight. IPV in pregnancy raised South Africa's ranking on the mortality rate to the highest globally, and to double that of the US, the report found.

To date, IPV has largely been an area of chronic neglect within the health and social development arenas and therefore the necessary care is mostly absent from clinical practice. “The document provides evidence of the burden of disease this problem poses nationally, and offers evidence-based recommendations and potential solutions,” says Dr Kate Joyner from Stellenbosch University

“Not enough is being done about intimate partner violence (IPV),” said Joyner, who is an expert in gender-based violence nursing at the university's faculty of medicine and health sciences.

Joyner and University of Cape Town’s Drs Kate Rees and Simone Honikman compiled the policy brief for the Alan J Fisher Centre for Public Mental Health to raise awareness on the social phenomenon.

Said Joyner: “PV has largely been an area of chronic neglect within the health and social development arenas and therefore the necessary care is mostly absent from clinical practice,” she said.

The danger faced by women had also been identified by research done by Statistics SA, and in a report on Victims of Crime released this week is information that one in every four women faced violence from within their own homes.

Statistician-General Pali Lehohla said the rate of spousal abuse had risen over the past five years, with 11% of assault and murder of women at home rising to 31% last year. He said the drivers of contact violence across all sectors included inequality, jealousy and financial matters. Anger, drugs and alcohol also played a major role.

Joyner and her colleagues said IPV existed in a vicious cycle with HIV, mental illness, poor reproductive health, poor childhood development and chronic disease. These resulted in injuries, disability and death. Survivors were hesitant to disclose their situation due to stigma. Solutions lay in a shift in the mindset of men and boys, and if combined with community outreach this would show efficacy in reducing the use of violence.