Gender-based violence is not a women’s-only issue nor is it an only-male problem. It is a human issue, a societal issue, a national issue. Photo: Marco Longari/AFP
South Africa lost more than R36-billion in 2019 alone, as a result of gender-based violence (GBV).
This is according to a new report, titled The Costly Impact of GBV, which builds on research to determine the toll of violence against women on South Africa’s struggling economy.
The report, compiled by global business advocacy and training group the Shared Value Initiative, used the combined cost of medical care for gender-based violence victims, human capital loss and judicial costs to come up with the R36-billion figure, which it concedes is a conservative estimate.
According to the report, out-of-pocket medical costs for the gender-based violence victims amounted to almost R10-billion, human capital loss was R26-billion (based on South Africa’s estimated 0.7% loss of 2019 GDP) and judicial costs were R104-million.
The report notes that poor health caused by gender-based violence negatively affects human resources because victims’ physical, psychological, spiritual and social wellbeing is impaired. On the other hand, good health has a significantly positive effect on human capital and GDP.
At the launch of the report on Thursday, commentator Eusebius McKaiser pointed out that when it comes to tackling gender-based violence “unfortunately … we now have to appeal to economic logic and not only to human rights-based logic”.
The report’s launch was held at the JSE.
The research also delves into the view that the private sector is the missing link in the fight against gender-based violence.
Speaking at the report’s launch, Tiekie Barnard, the chief executive of the Shared Value Initiative, said gender-based violence is a business issue.
“Research tells us that one in three women will be affected by gender-based violence in their lifetime. So let’s do the maths,” she said.
“If we employ 15 women, five of them will be affected by gender-based violence.”
Inequality across gender lines is the biggest driver of violence against women, Barnard added. “And the private sector has the capacity, has the resources, has the power to change economies forever — if you intentionally, and deliberately, address gender-based violence in the workplace.”
It will take 132 years to reach gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022 — with only 68% of the gender gap closed. At South Africa’s largest firms, women in top positions are earning 72c for every R1 earned by their male counterparts, according to a 2021 report by advisory firm PwC.
According to the Shared Value Initiative report, 83% of the 2 270 surveyed employees felt that gender-based violence has a big effect on workplace productivity and 95% said companies should do more to ensure equal opportunities and salaries for women. Close to 80% of employee respondents felt that gender-based violence plays a big role in a woman’s career progress or lack thereof.
The report recommends that companies include their efforts to tackle gender-based violence in their environmental, social and corporate governance and integrated reporting.
Mervyn King, who chaired the committee that compiled the King Report on corporate governance, said: “The time has come to draft a corporate reporting standard on gender equality. Every company in reporting should report on what they have done with regard to gender equality in the world. And people in the capital markets of the world can then make up their minds.
“Do they want to invest long term, for their beneficiaries, such as a pension fund, in the equity of this company that has had no regard for gender equality and — for example — has greenwashed its report?”
The president of Business Unity South Africa, Bonang Mohale, said companies do not need the government’s permission to address gender inequality and pay parity.
“They need to ask only one question of a chief executive officer: to ask their human capital department, ‘Could you print for me … so I can see how we are paying women versus men for work of equal value?’
“For me, diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. But belonging is bringing your own music and being allowed to play it.”