Although lockdown is a very necessary protective measure, it brings with it a very deadly danger.
UN Women has observed that confinement fosters tension and strain created by security, health and money worries.
“It is increasing isolation for women with violent partners, separating them from the people and resources that can best help them. It’s a perfect storm for controlling, violent behaviour behind closed doors. And in parallel, as health systems are stretching to breaking point, domestic violence shelters are also reaching capacity, a service deficit made worse when centres are repurposed for additional COVID-response.”
Over the 12 months leading up to the pandemic, there were 243 million women and girls aged between 15-49 who were subjected to sexual and/or physical violence around the world. With the growth of the pandemic, and the responses or interventions to, the impact on women has growingly been observed.
The impact is seen in women’s wellbeing, sexual and reproductive health, mental health and ability to participate and lead in the recovery of the world societies and economies.
The wide under-reporting of domestic and other forms of violence has previously made response and research a challenge. The current conditions make reporting even harder.
This compromises care and support that survivors need, including clinical management of rape, mental health as well as other forms of psychosocial support. The conditions create greater margins for impunity for the perpetrators as well, with many cultural practices not being in favour of women.With the third lockdown under way in Greater Gaborone, we can expect that gender-based violence, as well as domestic violence will be at their highest. It’s a reality we have to be alive to. Civil society in our country has been up in arms, making efforts to address this, since the beginning of the contagion.
This piece explores the extent of the problem, and extends a request that we, as a nation to not remain silent about this dire problem. It is also an invitation to reach out to organisations and government institutions who are working against this ill, to ensure the safety of women and children during this challenging period.
The piece observes that the problems generally faced by survivors of violence are heightened and made dire as they are layered by being stuck in homes with perpetrators and potential perpetrators.
Frontline responders to gender based violence, including the Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre, as well as women Against Rape, anticipated the heightened rate of abuse over the season of COVID-19 responses and interventions. With many women stuck or even trapped in their home with their perpetrators, and nowhere to run
The 2018 Botswana Relationship Study disclosed that a minimal fraction of gender based violence cases are reported, generally.
With the present conditions when many people gave to stay home with their perpetrators, domestic violences have been on the rise.
The typical cycle of domestic violence is often marred by a desire by the survivor to have the violence stop, without endangering the perpetrator’s future with insistences of withdrawn cases. Lockdown restrictions however, have made it even more challenging to seek help.
Abused women are unable to leave their homes. Where men are the primary earners in the family, women find themselves subjected to lack of access to ways in which to reach out for help.
This is when the personal becomes public, to the extent that when we know that our neighbours are not in the best of ways, as a communal people, we ought to respond in the care that we would if it were ourselves or someone we know more closely.
As UN Women observes, “COVID-19 is already testing us in ways most of us have never previously experienced, providing emotional and economic shocks that we are struggling to rise above.
The violence that is emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic is a mirror and a challenge to our values, our resilience and shared humanity.
We must not only survive the coronavirus, but emerge renewed, with women as a powerful force at the centre of recovery.” If, during this period, you know someone who needs assistance and direction towards a shelter for psychosocial support or to remove them from being in the same space as their perpetrators, look for your nearest non-governmental organisation.
They will usually know to lead you in the right direction, or to guide you to people who know and understand how to access the shelters. The shelters are safe, and extremely protected, allowing for isolation and lockdown to happen in a manner that protects women against the ills which may come alive in their homes.
Of course, we all need to work towards shifts in our attitudes and behaviours for our nation to become safe.
We have to find ways, societally, to cope with, manage and deal with anger much more healthily.
In the meantime, however, we must protect ourselves and those we know, acknowledging that our silence and our ignorance of what we know is going on, serves only to dig deeper holes for abused persons.