A call for action to address alcohol-fueled violence against women, that can largely be prevented…

As we commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women I would like to share with you some interesting facts about alcohol consumption and intimate partner violence (IPV) towards women. And I would like to call for urgent action to tackle this epidemic!

Both alcohol abuse and intimate partner violence (IPV) are significant public health problems in South Africa. Together they put a massive burden on our society and inflict tremendous harm. Consider these statistics for example:

  • 67% of domestic violence in the Cape Town Metropolitan area are alcohol related.
  • In a study of women abused by their spouses, 69% identified alcohol and other drug abuse as the main risk factor for violence.
  • 76% of domestic violence in rural areas in the South-Western Cape was found to be alcohol-related.

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The term ‘domestic violence’ (DV) is used in many countries to refer to partner violence but the term can also encompass child or elder abuse, or abuse by any member of a household. It describes any behaviour where one person purposely hurts another physically, psychologically or sexually in a relationship. Physical abuse is the most obvious form. When it occurs in an intimate relationship it is called ‘intimate partner violence’ (IPV).

A WHO factsheet on IPV states that most reported IPV is perpetrated by men towards women. However, violence can also be committed by women towards men, and violence sometimes occurs in same-sex partnerships.

Alcohol and intimate partner violence

Strong links exist between alcohol use and the occurrence of intimate partner violence in many countries. Evidence suggests that alcohol use increases the occurrence and severity of domestic violence. The use of alcohol in South Africa is among the highest in Africa, and we have one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world.

Researchers have found strong links between alcohol use and the occurrence of IPV. There is evidence to suggest that alcohol use increases the occurrence and severity of DV.

  • It is estimated that one out of every six woman in South Africa is regularly assaulted by her partner. Alcohol plays a role in almost half of these domestic violence cases, and in some of the cases, the men involved also abuse the children living with the woman.

Consider, for instance, the research of ChildSafe South Africa, a not-for-profit campaigning to protect children from harm. ChildSafe chairman Sebastian van As says, according to Times Live reports:

Alcohol is closely related to violent crimes in the South African context. In our research we found that about 70% of people assaulting intimate partners or spouses are intoxicated.”

Such effects of alcohol on the South African society are enormous. The epidemic of alcohol fueled intimate partner violence is a key public health issue in South Africa and does require urgent attention. Best practices for dealing with alcohol fueled violence against women call for increasing alcohol pricing and for decreasing alcohol marketing. Let’s not allow women and children to be affected by circumstances we can prevent!

Scientific evidence shows that reducing the availability and affordability of alcohol is associated with lower levels of violence. Increasing the price of an ounce of alcohol by 1% would reduce the probability of intimate partner violence against women by 5.3%.

That’s right! Alcohol violence against women can largely be prevented.