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IMPACT OF GBV

New report reveals costly human and financial toll of gender-based violence on SA

New report reveals costly human and financial toll of gender-based violence on SA
A 2019 protest outside Parliament during the second anniversary of the rape and murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana. (Photo: Brenton Geach / Gallo Images)

The hidden financial cost of gender-based violence to South Africa runs into the billions. The effect it has on lives and communities is even more far-reaching.

It is estimated that gender-based violence (GBV) cost South Africa R36-billion in 2019, according to a recent report titled The Costly Impact of Gender-Based Violence: Private Sector Perceptions and Realities in South Africa”.  

The purpose of the report – by Professor Corné Davis from the University of Johannesburg and Tiekie Barnard, CEO of the Shared Value Africa Initiative in partnership with Mid Sweden University and supported by KPMG – is to “drive accountability within the private sector, and influence GBV-related system change and policymaking to contribute towards enabling equal opportunities and empowering women in the workplace”.

The research built on a 2014 KPMG report that described the full economic impact of violence against women, as well as the impact on their children. That report estimated the economic impact of gender-based violence in South Africa was between R28.4-billion and R42.4-billion in 2012/2013. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Framing gender-based violence as a “crisis” merely bandages a festering societal wound

For the latest report’s section on the impact of GBV on healthcare costs in South Africa, estimates were based on a literature study accompanied by research data from the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

According to the report, researchers have estimated that judicial costs for GBV were R104-million in 2019, while out-of-pocket medical costs for victims were about R10-billion. 

Added to this is “the damage or loss caused to people or societies, including, among other things, material loss, social costs and psychological damage” – which the report refers to as the “human capital loss”. Researchers found GBV-induced human capital loss to be around R26-billion in South Africa, based on WHO estimates.

“Considering the out-of-pocket medical costs for the GBV victims (almost R10-billion), human capital loss (R26-billion) and judicial costs (R104-million), we can conservatively estimate that South Africa has lost more than R36-billion in 2019 alone, due to GBV.

“This is based on the country’s estimated 0.7% loss of 2019 GDP due to GBV-induced human capital loss,” reads the report. 

The report added that because researchers had limited data available and could not get “the actual out-of-pocket expenditure for GBV victims”, the estimated cost of GBV in South Africa could be much lower in the report than it was in reality. 

A more comprehensive report presenting the “real picture of GBV costs in South Africa” is under way, the researchers stated.


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Director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children Bernadine Bachar said that while there are obvious costs – being law enforcement, the healthcare system and the justice system – there are “many hidden costs” involved in tackling gender-based violence.  

“I think the hidden costs are actually more prevalent,” she said. 

Bachar cited the “hidden costs” of providing healing and restoration services to children who are exposed to domestic violence and/or gender-based violence, as well as the cost to education to support those children, because exposure to GBV and domestic violence is more likely to impact on their schooling and ability to concentrate.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “North West school rape case confirms victims are being failed by the system

“Gender-based violence doesn’t just impact on the survivor; there are far-reaching implications for the family and the community,” she said.

Read more in Daily Maverick:Krugersdorp victim’s ordeal: ‘I closed my eyes, crying. Moments later, I was also raped, by three men’

This is in addition to the effect of the abuse on the victim, which Bachar said is “less easy to quantify”. 

“If she’s completely traumatised because of the abuse, she might leave a job or she might not be in a position where she can get employment, so that becomes a strain on the social grant system,” Bachar explained. 

Although the estimated R36-billion contained in the report may seem steep, Bachar believes the true cost is significantly higher, considering a vast number sexual assaults go unreported. 

In the first three months of 2022, there were at least 10,818 rapes reported in South Africa, an increase of 13.7% over the same period last year. 

While the report estimates R104-million was lost in judicial costs in 2019, the Saartjie Baartman Centre’s budget is “one-fifth of that amount”, said Bachar. 

“And we’re just one shelter in one province,” she said. 

Bachar added that support services for gender-based violence victims continue to be underfunded and underresourced – “women are falling through the cracks”. DM

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