SADC Exec Sec warns of increase in cases of Gender Based Violence due to COVID-19

By Zbc Reporter
Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary, H.E. Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax says since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, cases of domestic violence have been rising significantly across the globe, particularly following the lockdown measures instituted by Governments to contain the spread of the virus.
In a statement on Domestic and Gender Violence and Dr Lawrence said the 16 member states of the SADC Region have not been spared.
‘The UN Women report shows that some countries around the world, particularly those highly affected by COVID-19, have registered up to 30% increase in reported domestic violence cases and around 33% increase in emergency calls for gender-based violence, with women and girls being the victims of these acts,’ said Dr Lawrence Tax.
The situation is not only appalling, said Dr Lawrence adding that it stood against the very spirit and principles enshrined in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, Regional Strategy and Framework of Action for Addressing GBV (2018-2030) and the Regional Strategy on Women, Peace and Security (2018 – 2022), which collectively seek to sustainably empower and protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence.
The SADC Executive Secretary said SADC recognises that, in the midst of combating this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to overlook the abuses that women and girls encounter during this crisis.
‘While it is very important for Governments and stakeholders to focus on measures to contain COVID-19, and Law enforcement establishments to focus on enforcing COVID-19 regulations and measures in the communities, domestic violence should not be neglected,’ said Dr Lawrence Tax.
Under the lockdown, Dr Lawrence Tax said domestic violence cases tend to increase as security, health, and finance concerns heighten socio-economical tensions.
She said Women that have been in abusive relationships were now forced to be at home with their abusers for a prolonged period, making it difficult for them to reach out for help due to the presence of the abusive partner at home.
‘Social distancing in itself makes it difficult for women victims to reach out to their usual support systems, particularly, friends and other family members. In addition, the COVID-19 quarantine centres and temporary accommodation facilities for the homeless have the potential of being a breeding ground for sexual and gender-based violence, if not managed appropriately,’ added Dr Lawrence Tax.
The pandemics like COVID-19, she said can make reporting of abuses harder due to the disruption of public services and limited access to communication facilities such as phones and helplines.
‘It is therefore important for the Member States to provide flexible and innovative tools for reporting, counselling services, and support to domestic violence. These tools must be clearly communicated to enable those affected to access and utilise them. In response to this crisis, particularly during lockdown, shelters and places of safety for victims of abuse must be considered an essential service and should be expanded as needed.’
Dr Lwrence said in line with Article 20 of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which obliges Member States to put in place measures to eliminate gender-based violence, Implementation of this provision is guided by the Regional Strategy and Framework of Action for Addressing Gender Based Violence (2018-2030) and the Regional Strategy on Women, Peace and Security (2018 – 2022), which collectively seek to sustainably empower and protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence.
The SADC Executive Secretary urged all including the public sector, private sector, civil society, media and community leaders to work together during the COVID-19 crisis, and to consider the differential impact of the crisis on women and men, boys and girls.
‘With collective efforts and commitment, we can avoid a double crisis of COVID-19 and gender-based violence, and the associated far reaching consequences to our society. We must all redouble our efforts on zero tolerance to gender-based violence as we fight this devastating COVID-19 pandemic,’ read her statement.

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