Intimate partner violence cases increase during lockdown

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) remained the most common form of violence against women and girls during the nationwide lockdown as domestic abuse intensified in that period, a recent report on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) has shown.

The lockdown order meant to curb the spread of Covid-19 cases in Zimbabwe was imposed March 30, 2020, and extended indefinitely on May 16, 2020.

Titled ‘Violence Against Women and Girls during the COVID-19 Crisis in Zimbabwe: Analysis of practice-based data from Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe’, the report was produced for the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe by the Stopping Abuse and Female Exploitation (SAFE) Zimbabwe Technical Assistance Facility (TAF) in July 2020.

According to the report, women reported abuse at home, water collection points, food aid collection points and at security check points as they interfaced with lockdown enforcement security agents.

For example, Musasa Project reported that during the first 11 days of the lockdown they received 764 reported cases of Gender Based Violence, compared to the normal range of 500 to 600 cases per month.

The study collected and compared data from five Non-Governmental Organisations, Musasa, Adult Rape Clinic, Zimbabwe Women’s Lawyers Association, Women and Law in Southern Africa and ROOTS Africa, on reports of Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) for three time periods of two months duration: April to May 2019 (a year before the Covid-19 outbreak), February to March 2020 (before lockdown)and April to May 2020 (during lockdown).

Data on reports of violence was also compared for March, April and May 2019 and the same period a year later (March, April and May 2020) during Covid-19, including the month before and two months during lockdown.

It was learnt IPV remained the most common form of violence against women and girls during lockdown while levels of IPV intensified compared to 2019.

“71.1 percent of reports of violence in March to May 2020 were reported as partner violence, a slight increase on the previous year (68 percent) as a proportion of all reports of violence. In addition, qualitative interviews with NGO staff found increased severity of reports of IPV, particularly physical IPV,” said the report.

Of the data sets where a perpetrator was identified, more than two-thirds of the reports (69.5 percent) cited intimate partners as perpetrators while 30.5 percent of reports cited non-partners perpetrating violence.

“Reports of partner perpetration of violence increased from 68 percent of all reports with an identified perpetrator in 2019 (March to May) to 71.1 percent in 2020(March to May),” the report said.

There was a 38.5 percent increase in reports of violence to NGOs providing GBV services over the two months during lockdown (April to May 2020) compared to the two months before lockdown started (February to March 2020).

“Despite the access barriers to help-seeking detailed in this report, more women requested GBV support from NGOs during the COVID-19 crisis than in the preceding months. The increase in help-seeking could be due to increased incidence of violence, increased severity of violence, or the inability to use alternative options for escaping violence such as going to stay with relatives,” read the report.

The biggest increase in reporting was in May 2020, with a rise of 43 percent compared to May 2019 and a 74 percent increase in reports of violence from the preceding month.

“The timing of the increase may relate to the easing of hard lockdown restrictions in mid-May allowing women to more easily seek help, or to escalating household tensions as lockdown continued resulting in rising levels and severity of violence,” said the study.

However, it is noted fewer VAWG cases were reported in April 2020 during hard lockdown, compared to March (before lockdown) and May 2020 (when restrictions eased).

The lower reporting figures were attributed to lockdown measures that limited ng women’s ability to seek help and report cases of violence.

“Data from other countries has shown that in some cases, where movement is restricted and where social distancing affects access to and availability of specialist VAWG services, requests for help have actually decreased,” said the study.

“Low reporting does not necessarily mean that violence is not happening but can be an indication that women are suffering in silence without access to the vital support that they need.”

The main objective of this analysis was to investigate the dynamics of VAWG reported to NGOs responding to such violence in Zimbabwe before, during the Covid-19 lockdown and to recommend advocacy messages for VAWG prevention, response in Covid-19 based on the findings and analysis.

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)

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