Gender activists say unemployment and alcohol abuse are some of the main contributing factors to the increase in intimate partner violence in South Africa. They say men tend to compensate for their lack of employment by physically and sexually abusing their partners.

One victim of gender-based violence says she’s desperately looking for a job for her husband so that he can stop abusing her.

Nosipho Mkhize, from Soweto, has been happily married for six years.

However, she says that when her husband lost his job last year, she observed changes each time she came home from work.

“He is a totally different person. He is moody and starts a fight over anything. It doesn’t matter how kind or gentle I am with him.”

Mkhize says her husband has started drinking heavily and she has to endure almost daily physical abuse from him, often in front of their two children.

“It pains him to see me going to work in the morning. The only thing that will sort out his problems is getting a job again. I miss my husband.”

Mkhize is among the 30% of South Africans who are without a job:

Sonke Gender Justice says there is a close intersection between alcohol and gender-based violence.

“We see a fuelling of violent masculinities where alcohol is involved. When men partake in typical masculine behaviour such as heavy drinking or risky sex, this can often lead to violence against their partners and families. Secondly, coping with unemployment, when they are not able to provide it, therefore, shift roles to women who have to look after the family and this leads to gender-based violence as well,” says Executive Director, Bafana Khumalo.

A researcher at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Dr Leane Ramsoomar-Haripasaad, says they have completed a seven-year global programme looking at violence against women and girls and she is concerned about the South African trends.

“There’s an average of about between 40 and 50% in certain areas of physical or sexual violence. When we look at SA it shows just about a 10% prevalence of physical violence. We looked at an informal settlement in SA; we were getting 65% or more prevalence of intimate partner violence and sexual violence and when we begin to look at that in relation to alcohol use it becomes very worrying for South Africa.”

Gender activists have called for a review of laws regulating alcohol and also want more effort put into increasing jobs in South Africa to prevent gender-based violence.