Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Economic Abuse: A Hidden Form of GBV

In the previous article titled, “How money is used as a weapon in relationships”, we drew a distinction between economic and financial abuse. The latter involves the exploitation of financial resources, such as money, bank accounts, and the generation of debt. It is a specific attribute of economic abuse, which is more inclusive, which involves restrictions on other resources such as food, transportation, the obtainment of education and employment.

The Domestic Violence Act (Cap. 28:05) defines economic abuse as “(a) the deprivation or threat thereof of economic resources to which the applicant is entitled under the law, or which the applicant requires out of necessity, including household necessities for the applicant and any child, and mortgage bond repayments or rental payments of the residence; or (b) the disposal, alienation or threat thereof of household effects or other property in which the applicant has an interest”.

Although defined as a form of domestic violence by the Act, it suffers marginal recognition as It is not publicly discussed, hence not well documented in Botswana. It is complex and subtle in nature. Its complexity also stems from our culture and beliefs, that the husband is the main breadwinner and therefore the domineering economic figure. Under our very own Setswana culture, through the marriage institution, the husband acquires his wife and her services, and his role is to provide for her. However, the family model has evolved over time due to various social and economic developments. For example, both men and women can now be providers or breadwinners, the roles of a husband and wife are now intertwined, they are no longer fixed.

Regrettably, research has shown that it is mostly women who suffer from economic abuse in relationships. Men tend to exert coercive control over women in relationships through the deprivation of money and other economic resources. Economic abuse is a form of Gender Based Violence (GBV) that needs to be addressed. Sadly, with the ongoing debate and search for sustainable solutions to GBV, I am deeply concerned that the attention is only centred on physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Global statistics tell us that 1 in 3 women who are 18 years of age or older experience domestic violence. As surprising as these figures might be, the NCADV also reported that between 94% – 99% of domestic violence victims experience economic abuse during an abusive relationship.  

Common manifestations of economic abuse may include forbidding work, sabotaging employment opportunities, depriving the abused partner food or basic necessities, controlling how money is spent, not allowing the abused partner access to bank accounts or credit cards, restricting access to financial information, not consulting the abused partner in investment or banking decisions, accessing credit by forging the abused partner’s signature, or hiding assets and financial resources.

The impact of economic abuse is devastating on women and children.

This form of intimate partner violence should be publicly acknowledged as a form of GBV. Although less documented in the country, international research studies have found a lack of awareness to be another reason economic abuse is not getting the attention it deserves. Women need to be educated about the patterns and red flags of economic abuse. This form of abuse is about the abuser seeking control to make the abused partner dependent upon them by depriving them of economic and financial resources. Agencies that address GBV should also educate bankers on identifying signs of financial abuse. Dikgosi and community leaders should also take an active role in addressing issues relating to economic abuse.

Declaimer: Otisitswe K. Tawana-Madziba is the founder of Fin-Edu. For comments, kindly send an email to [email protected] or visit


Read this week's paper