09/12/2017 09:52 SAST | Updated 15/12/2017 12:20 SAST

How Alcohol Plays A Role In Gender-based Violence --- And What Must Happen Now

During these 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence we examine at the role alcohol plays in instances of violence against women.

A crying woman sitting amidst the clutter of used tissues - Copyspace
Getty Images
A crying woman sitting amidst the clutter of used tissues - Copyspace

How many times do you hear about alcohol playing a role in a Gender-Based Violence (GBV)? In our view, far too many times not to have a frank discussion about it.

We've recently witnessed gender-based violence incidents involving high profile individuals. Remember the incident involving former Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mduduzi Manana, who was seen on video assaulting a woman with his entourage. The woman, we now know, is Mandisa Duma. She and her friend got into a confrontation with Manana and a group of his friends after he says she swore at him and called him 'gay'. He clearly didn't take kindly to that and responded by slapping her.

We then saw the Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula responding to the charges that were laid against Manana. For the first time since the incident, we first heard the Minister emphasise the influence of alcohol in that incident. "A group of men in a place of alcohol, joined to exchange masculine punches with a lady after legal hours of alcohol consumption," said Mbalula.

Mbalula added: "The case of the deputy minister is very disappointing because we expect individuals like him to act as an ambassador, the law, however, must take its course... Manana will not be treated with special kid gloves."

He wasn't treated with kid gloves but he did only get a slap on the wrist when Magistrate Ramsamy Reddy sentenced Manana to either a year's imprisonment or an R100,000 fine, along with 500 hours of community service.

So what are the facts around the role that alcohol plays in GBV?

People under the influence of alcohol tend to be more aggressive to partners

A World Health Organisation (WHO) study found that 65% of women in South Africa had experienced spousal abuse. It also showed that their partners always or sometimes used alcohol before the assault.

"Incidents of women being abused by their partners do happen. If one is under the influence of alcohol, they are prone to be more aggressive towards their partners. Because of alcohol, their reality at that time it ends up in them being physically and sometimes sexually abusive," Said Anele Siswana, a clinical psychologist.

"One of the things that need to be done is psycho-education, particularly around educating men and young boys to be more sensitive towards women and girl children. Promoting education around ways in which we can teach our young boys well-rounded ways of behaving so that physical violence and other forms of abuse are not an alternative form of solving a problem," Siswana explained.

What are the interventions to curb Gender-based Violence due to the influence of alcohol?

The government has condemned acts of assault against women and urged victims of GBV to come forward and report these police.

In a lot of these cases of conflict, the victim lays charges but later drops the charges, making it difficult for police to convict the perpetrator.

"The recent statistics shared by the Minister of Police show that cases of women abuse have dropped in the country, however, they might not be a reflection of the state of Gender-based Violence in this country. We encourage women to come forward and report cases of Gender Based Violence so these cases can be resolved and for them to have trust in the institution of the South African Police Services. When women open these cases they must not drop them because that leads to the death of victims as perpetrators often become more aggressive," said Vuyo Mhaga, the Police Ministry spokesperson.

Mhaga adds: "People must drink responsibly as most of these Gender-based Violence cases are linked with alcohol. In South Africa, we have excessive drinking and people need to confront that. The effects of the accidents you cause when you are drunk are far-reaching and people need to understand that."

While those abusing alcohol need to play their part in responsible drinking, alcohol brands are also taking action to promote responsible drinking.

Diageo, a global alcohol brands company has committed to working with communities and retailers to educate them about harmful drinking.

As the silly season approaches, we hope that the conversation continues around these harmful effects of alcohol abuse and urge those who are responsible citizens to stand up against atrocious acts of violence against those who are vulnerable.

To have your say against Gender-based Violence, join the Stride For Good movement and make your mark. ​​​​