Shadow Pandemic On A Surge During Lockdown
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, there has been a sharp increase in gender-based violence (GBV) cases attributed to the lack of access to income, loss of livelihoods, and shortages of basic commodities
By Chiedza Mutyavaviri
A lot of work has been done and a lot of initiatives put in place to fight human rights violations specifically women’s rights, however, COVID-19 has brought a dark shadow to the fight against GBV with GBV cases escalating like never before.
Although the lockdown is a protective measure to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, with regards to gender-based violence it has come as a heavy blow as it is bringing danger to women and girls who are staying with perpetrators.
Women and girls have become more vulnerable to violence during the lockdown and are not safe at their homes as they are confined and isolated indoors with the abusers hence the increase of incest, marital rape and physical and sexual abuse.
According to Musasa, a non-governmental organisation which provides services to gender-based violence survivors in Zimbabwe, 782 cases were reported in the first 13 days of the lockdown with daily cases rising from 30 to 140.
Advocacy Officer for Musasa, Rotina Mafume Musara believes that gender bases violence has increased during the lockdown because abusers know that victims do not have full access to services and resources which can help them hence they take advantage.
A male Mufakose resident who wants to be identified as M. Mujuru attributed the increase of GBV cases to the shortage of basic commodities as people may fail to settle conflicts peacefully. “Domestic violence is on the increase because of the shortage of basic commodities hence some people end up verging their anger on women yet we should all understand that no one is going to work and it’s difficult to provide for families especially to those who live on hand to mouth jobs.”
According to the United Nations, since the outbreak of COVID-19, violence against women and girls particularly domestic violence has intensified worldwide.
UN also noted that with the increase of internet use during the lockdown in different countries, women and girls have been experiencing cyberviolence which include sexual harassment, sex trolling and stalking.
The current situation makes it difficult for some victims to report and seek help given that people are not allowed to move around and the process of accessing some services has changed. This entails that more cases are not being reported hence GBV is way too rampant than one can imagine.
The spiking of gender-based violence in Zimbabwe and worldwide affects women’s mental health, sexual and reproductive health which can lead to unwanted pregnancies and depression as some women may fail to access post violence services such as counseling. The government is therefore urged to strengthen services for GBV victims during COVID -19 by working closely with stakeholders who work with GBV survivors. It is also essential to make sure that shelters for survivors are well funded to cater for the increasing number of victims and well equipped to avoid the spread of COVID-19.