Women Organisations in Bulawayo have noted with concern an increase in gender-based violence (GBV) cases since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown.

In Zimbabwe, the lockdown against the global pandemic, Coronavirus, started on March 30 with people expected to stay at home.

To date, Zimbabwe has recorded 18 positive cases, three deaths and one recovery.

Other neighbouring countries have since extended their lockdown as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

There are fears that Zimbabwe might do the same, but President Emmerson Mnangagwa has since dismissed the claims saying the cabinet is yet to deliberate on the way forward.

Speaking to CITE, Programs Manager for Emthonjeni Women’s Forum, Melissa Ndlovu said the strain which is being exerted by the COVID-19 pandemic on numerous households is leading to the emergence of gender-based violence.

“The social and psychological strain which is being exerted by the COVID-19 pandemic on numerous households is leading to the emergence of COVID-19 motivated GBV which has since seen some women and children being chased from their homes. This is credited to the increase in the number of reported cases since this form of violence is only present due to the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ndlovu.

She said since the beginning of the lockdown, the forum has since attended to six GBV cases which were directly linked to the pandemic.

“Emthonjeni Women’s forum has attended to 23 GBV cases over the phone since the nationwide lockdown was put into effect on the 30th of March. Of these 23 cases, six were directly related to COVID-19 which included two women who were chased away from their homes by their spouses citing fear of COVID-19 infections.

“One case was of emotional abuse as the wife exhibited flue like symptoms and the other three cases were of women who needed information and needed to talk to someone about their fears.”

She said the organisation has noted an increase in GBV cases within the first two weeks of lockdown.

“The counselling department had attended to 25, 20 and 11 clients in January, February and March respectively. Upon close inspection, it can be observed that the cases attended to in the past two weeks alone surpass the cases attended to in February and March while contending with January. This observation represents an exponential increase in the number of reported cases since the beginning of lockdown,” said Dube.

“Of the 23 cases recorded, 10 cases reported were of physical abuse, five emotional abuse and two cases of rape. Six of these clients were referred to the emergence rapid response personnel as they were Covid-19 related, four were referred to ZRP and chiefs kraal as places of safety, two were referred to District Public Prosecutors office as case follow up they were rape case, four trauma counselling only and five conference couple call counselling and the last two were referred to Opportunistic Clinics (OI),” said Ndlovu.

Meanwhile, South Western Region Gender Network (SWRGN) Communications Officer, Methembe Songo said it is beyond doubt that lockdown has exacerbated GBV cases in the region.

“It is beyond doubt that lockdown has exacerbated GBV cases in the region as women are locked down and spending hours with abusive partners,” said Songo.

“In our IEC material and social platforms, we continue to make referrals to some of our strategic partners such as Victim Friendly Unit, Musasa Project, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Contact and Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association who offer direct psycho-social support and legal assistance to victims of gender-based violence.”

“Through a spotlight initiative project that we are currently doing, we continue to make awareness on the importance of victims to report any case of GBV,” He said.

Contacted for a comment, Bulawayo Provincial Police Spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said they have not yet received such cases and encouraged people to be tolerant during this period.

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)