Gender-based violence soars in southern Africa during lockdown

A man wearing a red tie leans against a desk.

Amnesty International director for East and Southern Africa Deprose Muchena.

Published Feb 10, 2021


RUSTENBURG - Gender-based violence increased in at least five southern African countries during Covid-19 lockdowns, non-governmental organisation Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

In a study titled “Treated like furniture: Gender-based violence and Covid-19 response in Southern Africa”, released on Tuesday, the NGO found that during the Covid-19 lockdown imposed by southern African countries, some homes across the region became enclaves of cruelty, rape and violence for women and girls trapped with abusive family members and nowhere to report or escape the danger.

The study further found that out of the five countries where gender-based violence was documented in the study, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe stand out as countries where support services for women and girls subjected to violence and abuse were not taken into consideration in the design of the measures to control the spread of Covid-19.

Zambia was the only country that recorded a slight decrease in gender-based violence during the national lockdown compared with the same period in 2019.

The study found that according to official police statistics, the country recorded a 10% decrease in the first quarter of 2020, which may reflect the fact that women were unable to call for help rather than a decline in gender-based violence cases.

In Mozambique, civil society organisations received unusually high numbers of domestic violence cases after the start of the state of emergency in March 2020. In one case, a man killed his wife and then himself on June 6 in Matola district, Maputo province.

In Zimbabwe, an organisation that offers protection for women survivors of domestic violence documented 764 cases of gender-based violence in the first 11 days of the national lockdown. By June 13, the number was 2,768.

In Madagascar, the rise in poverty due to lockdown was a major factor for the increase in gender-based violence during the lockdown period, with women and girls becoming poorer, more economically dependent on abusive partners and therefore more exposed to abuse.

In South Africa, within the first week of the lockdown, the South African Police Service reported receiving 2,300 calls for help related to gender-based violence. By mid-June 2020, 21 women and children had been killed by intimate partners in the country.

African News Agency

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