Too costly to ignore

The economic impact of gender-based violence in South Africa

Gender-based violence (GBV), and in particular violence against women, is one of the most expensive public health problems globally and has a fundamental impact on economic growth which can span several generations. More than 30 studies, mostly from developed countries, have attempted to quantify the costs of various forms of violence against women. These studies focus largely on the costs of services, and the economic losses due to lost output, decreased productivity and lower earnings resulting from violence. While the estimates per country vary depending on the scope and focus of the study, the magnitude is clear. Some of the most comprehensive studies, in both developed and developing countries, estimate the cost of violence to be between 1-2% of GDP, and these are widely accepted to be under-estimates, given the conservatism of the methodology and the gross under- reporting of violence.

In South Africa, domestic violence and gender-based violence aimed at women is high across all economic and racial groupings. Despite a decrease, the female homicide rate in 2009 was five times the global rate, and the national intimate partner violence homicide rate more than twice that in the United States. While national prevalence rates of all types of gender-based violence, not just those that result in death, are not available for South Africa, it is clear that it is a real problem of great magnitude. However, so far no attempt has been made to comprehensively estimate the full economic impact this has on the South African economy.