Gender based violence and Grandparents

FAMILY WEEKLY 26 AUGUS 2020. August is Women’s month in South Africa. Because of the serious problems around Gender Based Violence (gbv) during the last months of lockdown, brought on by the stresses during the Covid-19 pandemic, this month the focus in the media has been very strongly on combatting gbv.  Most of it appears to have addressed women and men separately.  Our approach is to consider Sexuality a Family Gift, which is our August family theme, and so hold that gbv should be addressed from a family perspective.  The vulnerability of the elderly to the Covid-10 virus has also been raised but in South Africa this has not been a major issue unlike some countries in Europe.

A Parish Grandparents Blessing in Geluksdal, Gauteng

I was invited to make a presentation about gbv and grandparents.  This is a summary.      

Introduction.    Having made a number of enquiries into this particular aspect of GBV I discovered that no specific research appears to have been done.  Requests were made to the Department of Social Development and some resource material was received: The Older Persons Act and Protocol for elder abuse. These highlighted the importance of their rights and dignity.  However helpful, referring to the elderly in general, it does not have a specific family focus on grandparents and their unique situation and relationships.

http://www.sadag.org I addressed the question too to SADAG, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, to request information at their weekly Fridayfacebook discussion.  The response stated that GBV affects every age. “Goggos” in rural area are raped. See below.

This short presentation includes anecdotal information from my own discussions with a field-worker and a colleague.   No statistical evidence was obtainable.  It is clear that GBV is an real problem for the safety of grandparents in their particular circumstances and is an important area for research.  

MARFAM’s particular focus and concern is with family life and a spirituality of the different areas of family life.  The approach used is to focus on a particular area during different months.  In July the focus was on grandparents with a short daily reflection, their reality, their challenges and needs as well as an opportunity to celebrate their contribution, honour, thank and pray for them. 

There are many more grandmothers than grandfathers.  Some do live together, some alone, some in institutions,  some with their families and many grandmothers care for grandchildren, those who are orphaned or, for various reasons in the absence of the children’s parents.  Their situation and living conditions impact on their dignity, rights and independence.

Not all grandparents are old, but many are very closely connected with their families and provide for family needs in a variety of ways.   They face many challenges, financial, emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual.  Gender-based violence in various forms is linked with many of those challenges, in the same way for women and men, however specific situations do exist.

Examples of GBV and grandparents.    

  • Grandparents, both male and female can be victims or perpetrators of GBV.  
  • They experience GBV within their own marital relationships or with intimate partners.
  • Widowed grandmothers are abused by other men in the family, particularly on the death of their husbands.  
  • Widows, single grandmothers and those in three-generation families are vulnerable to sexual harassment, abuse and violence from family, colleagues and strangers.
  • Adult children abuse grandparents emotionally, impacting on their dignity, freedom to have a life of their own and practice of their religion. 
  • Financial exploitation and abuse. Control over their own finances is taken away by children or grandchildren. They may be threatened and abused physically or sexually over their pensions and grants.  
  • Sexual abuse and rape happens where there is substance abuse in the family by the grandparents themselves, adult children and grandchildren.
  • Abuse of all kinds including sexual abuse does happen in institutions.
  • Particular concern was expressed about present-day lack of respect by grandchildren, boys and girls especially where there is substance abuse. Physical violence, beating and manhandling an older person, and rape were reported.  At the same time it was noted that grannies do at times encourage boys to engage in sexual behaviour.
  • Sexual relationships between grandfathers and young girls, the blessing syndrome, can be initiated by either.      
  • Overall it was stated that boys, especially  in grandmother headed families, often show little respect, display power and bully the older woman making demands and threatening her.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group EMAIL: Hi Mara, What is the extent of gender-based violence experienced by older persons, in particular grandparents and more specifically grandmothers. If possible please point to any research that has been done on this.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group Mara: Gender Based violins effects every age this an be seen by the goggos in the rural areas that are raped. Abuse and rape are not about love or list, they are about control and domination, hence any person, male or female can be raped. Most rapes are perpetrated by persons knows to the victim. No research has been done in South Africa on this mater

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