The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) and The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) with the support of the Ford Foundation published an evidence-based review on alcohol availability and the associated effect it has on Gender Based Violence (GBV)on 2 December 2021.
The report was released during the worldwide 16 Days of Activism campaign which began on the 25th of November and will run until the 10th of December 2021.
The study called Alcohol availability and Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Southern Africa: An evidence review reported on four southern African countries; South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The review investigates how the availability of alcohol influences increased rates of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) which is considered the most prevalent form of GBV.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol is recognised as driving force for violence, including GBV globally. Half of the world’s 2.3 billion drinkers consume alcohol in a harmful way. This includes consuming five drinks or anything above 60g of alcohol over the past month on a single occasion.
Alcohol abuse and GBV are co-occuring public-health threats to sub-Saharan Africa. Alcohol related harm manifests itself in men being three times more likely to commit intimate partner violence and increases women’s risk of experiencing gender-based violence by six times when alcohol is heavily consumed
Alcohol consumption prevalence is at under 30% across all four countries, however heavy episodic drinking staggered between 51% and 60% amongst those who drink. The prevalence of GBV ranged between 26% and 67% across the 4 countries. Prominent outcomes of the report speak to how the significant availability of alcohol impacts consumption and increases the incidence of gender-based alcohol-related harm. Primary factors relating to access such as Alcohol Outlet Density (AOD), the number of liquor establishments per square kilometre, as well as Outlet trading times (OTT) are direct contributors to increased levels of consumption and violence. These elements should be extensively considered when awarding and renewing liquor licenses.
Despite evidence of legislation protecting against GBV and regulating the alcohol industry, implementation of these policies is low. The findings of the review intensifies the need for greater implementation of laws and policies as well as further research to assess the effectiveness of structural interventions in the global South.
Recommended solutions in solving the problem include donors increasing public investment in funding research on alcohol availability and GBV in the global south, sensitising communities to alcohol-related intimate partner violence as well as researchers increasing rigour when conducting research on alcohol and the link to violence.
During the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance webinar to discuss the link between GBV and alcohol, one of the Authors of the review and a panelist during the webinar,Leane Ramsoomar-Hariparsaad from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said:”We must sensitise communities to the association between alcohol and GBV. We can’t continue to deny the role alcohol plays in GBV.”
“We need to act urgently to address these two public health challenges by developing structural interventions,effecting policy and systemic change in tandem with a suite of other interventions that have been shown to address harmful alcohol use,”Ramsoomar-Hariparsaad added.
While the Senior Programme Manager at the Soul City Institute Nelisiwe Hlope a fellow panelist issued a call to action. she said it was critical for police parents and communities at large to get involved in making communities alcohol safe.
“Outlets will sell alcohol to children as young as 5 years old as they are not regulated and laws are not enforced.We need greater involvement from parents and police,”Hlope said.
Bongiwe Ndondo Chief Executive Director, Hlanganisa Institute for Development in Southern Africa and the board Chairperson of SAAPA SA, moderated the webinar and said it was very important to discuss alcohol regulation and how it affects our public health scenarios and policies.
“This is a good time to look at these structural drivers of GBV, as we are currently commemorating 16 Days of Activism against violence against women and girls.Now is the time to put the evidence into actionand begin to ask what kind of behaviour do we want to encourage in our communities to address GBV ?”
“Government and officials need to show the political will to address the structural drivers of GBV. The disproportionately high numbers of alcohol outlets and trading hours outside the national norms and standards recommendations of 2016 are central to alcohol availability in communities, making it easy to access and abuse alcohol. Government urgently needs to engage in a process to harmonise legislation at local, provincial and national level and ensure that all communities enjoy the same rights to safety.” said Aadielah Maker Diedericks who Co authored the report and is the Regional Coordinator for the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance.