On the heels of the Ray Rice scandal in the U.S., a new report by the accounting firm KPMG says that violence against women in South Africa costs the country between $2 and $4 billion yearly. The lost funds could pay wage subsidies for all unemployed youths, build half a million houses or give health care to a quarter of all South Africans, the report says.
“We aren’t always able to put a number to human suffering, and it is controversial to do so,” said KPMG staffer Laura Brooks. “But this [figure] puts gender-based violence in a language that people can understand. If we can try put a number to it, it at least draws attention to it.”
The report, “The Economic Impact of Violence Against Women,” also follows the manslaughter conviction of Olympian “Blade Runner” Oscar Pretorius, who claimed to have shot his girlfriend four times by mistake.
In South Africa, a woman is killed by domestic violence on average every eight hours. The rate of intimate femicide, the killing of women by their partners, is five times higher than the global average.
To put that figure into perspective, more than seven times as many murders are committed in South Africa than in the U.S., and South Africa has a population of just 51 million, compared with 317 million in the U.S.
The cost to government of $45 million a year includes expenses associated with preventative programs, medical and aftercare services and police and judicial services.
A related study by researchers at Stanford and Oxford universities found that domestic violence, mainly against women and children worldwide, kills far more people than wars and is an often overlooked scourge that costs the world economy more than $8 trillion a year.
The authors urged the United Nations to pay more attention to abuse at home that gets less attention than armed conflicts such as those in Syria and Ukraine.
“For every civil war battlefield death, roughly nine people … are killed in inter-personal disputes,” Anke Hoeffler of Oxford University and James Fearon of Stanford University wrote in the report.
From domestic disputes to wars, they estimated that all violence worldwide cost $9.5 trillion a year, mainly in lost economic output and equivalent to 11.2 percent of world gross domestic product.
In recent years, approximately 20 to 25 nations experienced civil wars, devastating many local economies and costing approximately $170 billion a year. Homicides, mainly of men, unrelated to domestic disputes, cost $650 billion. But those figures were dwarfed by the $8 trillion annual cost of domestic violence, mostly against women and children.
Bjorn Lomborg, head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which commissioned the report, said household violence was often overlooked, just as car crashes attract less attention than plane crashes even though many more die in road accidents.
“This is not just about saying ‘this is a big problem,’” he told Reuters. “It’s a way to start finding smart solutions.”