Alcohol abuse is no excuse for raping and killing women
SA has one of the highest levels of alcohol use in Africa and one of the highest levels of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) in the world.
However, is it to blame for the soaring number of women attacked by men in the country?
Activists and experts say while alcohol may contribute to GBV, perpetrators should not use it as an excuse.
“There is often a link between alcohol consumption and execution of dominant or overpowering behaviour. However, an individual is responsible for choosing the conduct, behaviour and attitude,” said University of Free State sociology lecturer Nontombi Velelo.
Stellenbosch University’s Professor Amanda Gouws said alcohol plays a big role to diminish inhibitions and encourage people to act with impunity.
“But we cannot blame alcohol consumption for violence. It is people, and in the case of rape, men, who are violent.”
Various studies have identified substance abuse as a factor in 40-60% of incidents of domestic violence, either in precipitating the abuse or worsening it, said Gender Links special adviser Colleen Lowe Morna.
“More than 20% of male perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) had used alcohol or drugs immediately before the most recent incidents of violence,” she said.
Sonke Gender Justice Project and Wits conducted research into the relationship between alcohol abuse GBV in Diepsloot in 2016 and found:
- women with male partners who “come home drunk frequently” are four to seven times more likely to suffer violence than those whose partners drink infrequently;
- perpetrators of GBV are five times more likely than non-perpetrators to consume alcohol; and.
- male-to-female aggression is 11 times more likely to occur on days when perpetrators have consumed alcohol.
People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) spokesperson Thandiwe McCloy said patriarchy and gender inequality were the root causes of GBV.
“However, a contributing factor is high rates of alcohol abuse in communities in SA. There is a strong relationship between alcohol and GBV. Alcohol abuse perpetuates GBV. There is evidence that heavy drinking or frequent drinking by males, who are mostly perpetrators of GBV, increases the risk of violence. Heavy drinking increases aggressive behaviour, lack of control and increases the risk of committing acts of domestic violence and sexual violence. There need to be more programmes and campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption.”
McCloy said GBV was a systemic, complex problem, therefore there should not be one solution to deal with it.
“It needs to be dealt with from different angles, from changing harmful gender norms and men's attitudes of superiority towards women to addressing ills which are drivers of GBV, such as alcohol abuse, poverty and unemployment. While these social problems contribute to violence against women, they are in no way excuses for it.
“Certain social ills perpetuate GBV in some communities more than in others, so we need to tailor-make interventions to addressing GBV to specific communities rather than having a blanket approach.”
She said SA needed to confront social and cultural attitudes and beliefs, “such as those stating that men have the right to more power than women”.
“This fuels GBV. Relationships within the home affect every relationship outside the home, so it’s important to raise children in non-violent households where abuse is not tolerated. In this way, they are less likely to normalise abuse and stay in abusive relationships or become abusive when they are older.
“We need to ensure that there are more convictions for GBV crimes to send a strong message to would-be perpetrators that they will be punished for their crimes. There needs to be more education from early childhood development level regarding the importance of gender equality. It’s important to socialise children to know that boys are not better than girls and they are equal, from a young age.
“We need to encourage communities to intervene — rather than turn the other way — if they hear or witness GBV by calling the police anonymously on 10111. This way, abusers will know that their behaviour will not be tolerated,” she said.
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