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Curbing women abuse during COVID-19 lockdown


April 8, 2020

By First For Women

The lockdown in reaction to COVID-19 has forced many women and children into constant close proximity with their abusers.  Globally, lockdowns are causing an increase in domestic violence and abuse.  In Hubei province, domestic violence reports to police have more than tripled. Tunisia has reported a five-fold increase in violence against women. In Northern Ireland, there’s been a 20% increase of domestic abuse reports and in Paris, there’s been an increase of 32%.  South Africa is not immune and recently, a 75-year-old woman was brutally raped and strangled by suspects posing as SANDF soldiers.

As a result, The South African National GBV Command Centre (0800 GBV GBV) has been inundated with calls.  To assist those on the frontline, 1st for Women Insurance has donated headsets, hand sanitisers, masks, gloves and debriefing services to all social workers and supervisors at the GBV Command Centre to reduce secondary traumatic stress and burnout.

Nomathemba Malvern, Deputy Director: VEP & GBV and GBV Command Centre Manager expressed sincere gratitude for the donation, saying that it has gone a long way in ensuring that the GBV Command Centre working environment is conducive, healthy and safe for the employees

The Command Centre social workers and supervisors are doing a tremendous job in helping keep women safe in a time when heightened stress and anxiety exacerbate already volatile situations – with the looming threat of potential loss of income and bored and restless children stuck at home. According the World Health Organisation, some of the other issues that women face during isolation are:

  • Reduced contact with a support system of friends and loved ones who may usually offer care, guidance and even protection in violent situations.
  • Increased dependence on women for the caring of children, spouses and the household. This is further exacerbated by extended school holidays.
  • Disruption in employment or loss of jobs means less access to basic needs and services, further aggravating situations of violence and conflict. Another result of scarce resources is the increased risk of economic abuse at the hands of their partner.
  • More ways for an abusive partner to inflict control and power over women through the restrictions imposed during lockdown, giving women even less access to services, help and support in this time.
  • Abusers may go so far as to restrict access to vital items like soap and hand santiser. They may even exert control through sharing incorrect and inaccurate information and updates about the COVID-19, creating more fear and stigmatising their partner.

Considering that in South Africa, it is estimated that one in two women experience violence perpetrated by an intimate partner and three women are intentionally killed by their intimate partners each day – the issues women are facing, as mentioned above, put them at even more risk at this time.

Lindiwe Zulu, Social Development minister is urging communities to report incidents of women and child abuse during the lockdown.

We further encourage those seeking assistance and advice to visit ForWomen, our online support network that brings relevant causes and women abuse survivors together.

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