Gender Based Violence (GBV)

Gender Based Violence (GBV) encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, financial abuse and human trafficking, compromising the health, dignity, security and autonomy of victims. Women and girls are predominately the victims of GBV, with the United Nations Population Fund reporting that one in three women will experience GBV in her lifetime.

GBV is a critical area of concern in Swaziland, affecting as it is seen globally mostly the country’s women and children. Approximately one in four females in Swaziland experienced physical violence as a child, with 9% of youth aged between 18-24 years having been coerced into sexual intercourse before they turned 18 . Annual Police Reports in the country show an increase in Domestic Violence cases over the years.

SWAGAA a local NGO established to prevent and respond to Sexual and Gender Based Violence reported 1525 cases of abuse in the 2011/12 Fiscal Year, these cases were either reported directly to SWAGAA or came through referrals from the Royal Swaziland Police, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Department of Social Welfare. Of the reported cases of abuse 56% were emotional/verbal abuse, 14% were physical abuse, 13% were financial abuse and 12% were sexual abuse. The remaining types of abuse were neglect and human trafficking. In terms of the breakdown of victim’s sex, 72% are female and 28% are male. There is an exact reflection of these results with the sex of the perpetrator (28% female / 72% male).

Worryingly it is nearly always the case that that the perpetrator of GBV is known to the victim. Examining the data of SWAGAA in the last fiscal year, when victims were asked if they could identify the relationship with the perpetrator, only 6% were unable to, with 34% identifying a relative and 44% saying it was someone they were in a relationship with. Other types of relationships included professional (5%), someone from the neighborhood (8%) and other (5%).

Swaziland is currently at the epicenter of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic with 26% of adults being HIV positive . There is a clear link between GBV and the spread of HIV with the National Strategic Framework for HIV/AIDS (2009 – 2014) identifying the major epidemiological drivers of HIV in the country as: multiple concurrent partners (MCP); sexual violence and gender inequalities; low and inconsistent levels of condom use; intergenerational sex; income inequality (poverty); mobility and migration; commercial sex; low levels of male circumcision and alcohol and drug abuse.

A report issued by Amnesty International investigating the human rights abuses of HIV positive women in neighboring South Africa further unpacks components of the link between sexual violence/gender inequalities and HIV, observing that the difficulties faced when a woman needs protection from a violent or abusive partner include: the lack of independent economic resources and alternative housing; the isolating effect of being dependent for support on their husband’s family; the lack of encouragement to seek help from the police or the courts; and the failure of the police to provide an impartial service to fulfill their legal obligations .

In addition to these factors ‘social norms’ in Swaziland including the lack of rights for women in polygamous relationships; child marriage in the traditional context; social pressure not to divorce; and the belief that instances of abuse must stay within the family ‘Tibi Tendlu’ often perpetuate GBV and as such increase the risk for females contracting HIV .

The statistical information on the HIV Prevalence of women supports this information; the HIV prevalence rate among women is at 38% for 20 to 24 year olds, which is more than three times higher than among men (12%) of the same age. The prevalence rate of women aged 25 to 29 further increases to 49%, dropping slightly to 46% for women aged 30 to 34. What is further worrying is that these statistics remain high even for employed women, who because of financial independence should be able to protect themselves. Sexual harassment in the workplace is rife and often difficult to corroborate evidence hence perpetrators remain unpunished.

It is against this backdrop that evidences the need for specific interventions that empower women, increase awareness of GBV, and those that question the societal and cultural norms that surround sex and relationships and the way that men are expected to behave.

Much is being done in the country to address GBV at policy, legislative and program level, however currently there is no national or civil society based intervention that looks to utilize the private sector as a platform to enable environments (workplaces) to be Gender and GBV sensitive, whilst also engaging male and female employees in outreach that will change the attitudes that underlie domestic violence and deliver information on GBV including the dynamics and consequences, its link between HIV, prevention measures and where one can access further assistance. The proposed program looks to address this gap, with the overall goal of which to be to reduce GBV and the incidence of HIV.

Women in the advent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic are also faced with the double burden of providing financially for their families and acting as caregivers due to HIV-related illnesses in the family, which impacts negatively on income-generation and reduces the household income thus contributing to poverty among this economically marginalised group. Moreover, majority of the women have no formal business training, no time to attend to their health needs and/or no legal knowledge to protect and prosper their small businesses. Meaning their economic initiatives are unpredictable and their livelihoods as such threatened. This situation increases the vulnerability of this group to HIV. The proposed project through the training of female informal traders aims to address this situation through enhancing economic situations and increasing the ability to make choices in one’s life, whilst also empowering the women to stand up against violence, stay safe from HIV and challenge gender roles.

Additionally whether occurring inside the workplace or outside, the detrimental effects of employees experiencing GBV on the workplace are substantial. Experts worldwide are increasingly acknowledging the cost to victims and employers alike. In the United States it is estimated that the economic costs of GBV are in the billions of dollars . The cost to employers comes from factors such as increased employee absenteeism, increased health care costs and diminished productivity among others. As we are specifically targeting the private sector it is our intention to communicate these facts to management, to gain strong support of the project from within the sector, which will ultimately benefit both employees, and the employers in terms of their bottom line. As an organization that has been mandated through the NSF to coordinate the HIV response in the private sector, and as longstanding implementers of health initiatives in the sector we are well positioned to coordinate this proposed project.

Project Goal

To reduce the incidence of GBV in Swaziland through a coordinated and evidence based prevention program that addresses structural and social factors that increase the risk for individuals, targeting the private sector at company and employee level.

Target Population

The project will target formal (medium-large corporate) and informal (small-micro businesses) private sector in all four administrative regions in the country. In particular we will target 150 employers/management to reach 100 businesses, 10 000 employees and 500 female informal traders. Small-micro businesses include fruit and vegetable traders, handcraft/clothing cross-border market traders and saloon owners. While medium to large corporate companies include the textile and apparel, construction, agriculture, retail and banking sector.

The project was launched on the 28th November 2013 by the Ambassador of the United States of America, Ms Makila James, at the Royal Swazi Spa.