Gender Based Violence increases During Lockdowns

By Bokani King

Authorities in Botswana and South Africa have reported an increase in gender based violence incidents during lock down periods put in place as response measures to prevent the spread of covid-19. The same have been reported around the world as most countries have effected lock downs where people are encouraged to stay in their homes. Top among these forms of violence are physical and sexual violence on women and the girl child.

Botswana Police Deputy commissioner, Dinah Marathe revealed that they have been getting more reports of gender-based violence cases reported over the last 2 weeks of extreme social distancing.

According to statistic shared by the police, from March 30th to April 5th, 23 defilement cases, 22 rape cases and 2 cases of passion killings were recorded. Of the 23 defilement cases recorded, 7 were children under 13 years of age. The 1 threat to kill case and 1 case of indecent assault on a woman during the same period.

Marathe also revealed that they recorded a surge in the number of sexual assault cases involving children aged 2-13 years, with perpetrators being their fathers, stepfathers, uncles, brothers and other close relatives.

In South Africa, it is reported that over 148 people have been arrested in 2,300 reports of gender-based violence since the lockdown started. Nigeria reports that about 80 million women and girls are trapped at home with abusers during the lockdown period.

Marathe has however not ruled out the possibility of there being more incidents of this nature, as many cases are not reported.

Botswana Police reports that although most of the reported cases are male against female, there have been cases reported of women violating men, highlighting that approximately 67% of gender-based violence cases go unreported.

Botswana Gender Based Prevention and Support Centre CEO Lorato Moalusi says the recent rise in cases of violence against women and children is a reflection that many families in Botswana are dysfunctional. She said since the lockdown period, 22 women and children have been admitted at their centres.

Botswana Police recently had a Pitso ya Borre campaign against gender-based violence in Molepolole where Police Comissioner Keabetswe Makgophe stated that sometimes women are put under pressure by friends, family members as well financial situations, to withdraw their cases.

Marathe advised the nation to use the toll-free number, 0800 600 144 to report gender-based violence which is available across all networks, anywhere in the country.

Botswana is under a 28 day extreme social distancing period which started on April 3 and a 6 months state of public emergency, while South Africa has extended its initial 21 day nationwide lockdown with an extra 14 days until April 30.

Botswana currently has registered 15 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 1 death, while South Africa has registered more that 2500 cases and 34 deaths by Thursday April 16.

A recent Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women says that before COVID-19 existed, domestic violence was already one of the greatest human rights violations.

In the previous 12 months, 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has urged all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19. He has recommended that governments declare shelters as essential services and Create safe ways for women to seek support, without alerting their abusers.

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