Finding ways to drastically reduce GBV in South Africa has never been more urgent. South Africa has very high rates of violence against women and victims of GBV.
But these numbers have skyrocketed during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown period, which has lead President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare femicide, or the murder of women, a pandemic that South Africa must urgently address.
What is gender-based violence?
According to the United Nations, GBV is “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women. This includes threats of violence, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private”.
GBV is rife in South Africa and statistics from online knowledge portal SaferSpaces illustrate just how severe the problem is.
Information gathered over the last 10 years shows:
- more than 50% of all murders of women in 2009 were by committed an intimate male partner
- between 25% and 40% of South African women have experienced sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime
- Just under 50% of women report having experienced emotional or economic abuse by their intimate partners in their lifetime
The World Health Organization also indicates that femicide in South Africa is five times higher than the global average.
How South African authorities are responding to GBV
In response to the increase in GBV during the COVID-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa has introduced three new bills in Parliament designed to bring justice to victims and survivors of GBV.
While this is a step in the right direction, the bills don’t give women a solution to the problem.
Most women don’t report incidents of GBV, and even if it is reported, the reporting process can be traumatic. Survivors often have to relive the incident and many South African Police Service (SAPS) stations don’t have trained personnel or facilities to accommodate those that report GBV.
These factors, combined with the immense strain which the SAPS is under during the current pandemic, place the women of South Africa in a very vulnerable position.
How technology can help reduce GBV in South Africa
Education, police reform and new legislation are all needed to stop violence against women and help survivors of GBV. These solutions can take years, if not decades, to implement, and South Africa needs solutions now.
At AURA, we continue to investigate ways in which smart technology can help make people safer, and our experience with on-demand private armed response technology platforms has shown promise.
App-based security services specifically have the potential to help reduce some incidents of GBV in the country.
Three ways on-demand security apps can assist:
Users get immediate support
On-demand security apps aggregate responders from private security providers across South Africa. These AI-powered platforms then reduce the amount of time armed response vehicles take to respond to incidents of crime by locating the closest response officer to the user’s location and automatically dispatching them.
Support is sent to a live location
Private armed response security protects users in their homes. But what if the user is out and about? Mobile security platforms use the location-based technology embedded in smart devices to find users who require support. This allows armed response teams to locate users faster, no matter where they are.
Access to armed support becomes cost effective
For the cost of two cups of coffee at Starbucks every month, app-based security services can provide people across South Africa with access to effective, reliable private security response officers.
In the past, an exceedingly small portion of the population had access to private security. But with the help of technology, previously underutilised private security resources can now be made available to more communities.
Being safe is a basic human right and should be treated as such. The journey to making South Africa safe is a long one and requires input from multiple stakeholders. Private armed response, and the innovative new apps that effectively and affordably connect consumers to them, show potential in addressing GBV.