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Gross domestic violence: GBV is bad for GDP growth, study finds

Nations that ‘don’t have the money’ to tackle the issue should look at how much it’s already costing them, says researcher in ‘groundbreaking’ study

27 September 2020 - 19:28 By Emma Batha
The scourge of gender-based violence is costly.
BREAK THE SILENCE The scourge of gender-based violence is costly.
Image: Alaister Russell

Countries could save billions of dollars a year by tackling the “disgusting pandemic” of domestic violence, the Commonwealth secretary-general said as economists estimated the scourge cost the tiny kingdom of Lesotho 5.5% of GDP.

Patricia Scotland said domestic violence burdened health, police and judicial services, led to absenteeism at work and school, and permanently damaged children who witnessed it, affecting future generations.

About one in three women in Lesotho has suffered physical or sexual violence – often by a partner, similar to the global prevalence rate, according to a Commonwealth study published on Friday.

Analysts calculated this cost the country more than 1.9bn Lesotho loti ($113m) a year – equivalent to $50 per citizen.

Scotland said the “groundbreaking” study was part of a wider Commonwealth initiative to encourage all countries to put a price tag on violence against women and girls.

Nations that argued they did not have the money to tackle the issue should look at how much it was already costing them, she said.

Lesotho’s gender minister Mahali Phamotse said domestic violence was impeding development in the mountain kingdom and the study would shape efforts to address that.

Recommendations included training health staff, teachers and the private sector, improving data collection and enacting a long-awaited domestic violence bill.

Scotland has made tackling domestic violence a key plank of her leadership of the Commonwealth.

The Lesotho study revealed not only the direct costs of domestic violence, but also the broader economic impact.

It said victims’ annual income losses – which exceeded $20m – led to reduced spending power, which had knock-on effects on the wider economy, while missed school affected girls’ future earning potential.

Scotland hoped the greater global focus on domestic abuse, which has soared during lockdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus, would spur more governments to take action.

“The consequences are not just for this generation but for the generations to come,” she said.

“All the data shows us that if we do not have peace in our homes we haven’t got a hope of having real peace in our world.”

Scotland said domestic violence cut across all sections of society and urged everyone from bosses to religious leaders not to turn a blind eye.

“If it is one in three women that this is happening to, how many women do you and I know? Do not say ‘this is not my business’. It is absolutely everybody’s business,” she said.

– © Reuters