The Zimbabwe Gender Commision (ZGC)has revealed that the lockdown has caused an unprecedented increase in Gender Based Violence namely domestic violence manifesting in physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse among family members.
Musasa whose operations are based on advocacy, peace building and provision of direct services such as counselling, legal aid,medical assistance, life skills and temporary shelter to survivors of GBV reports that they have attended to more than 1200 reports at the end of April, more than double the usual per month.
Padare, the Men’s Forum on Gender Equality, reports that during the same period, they had received more than 50 reports of domestic violence on men since the lockdown started, a stark increase.
According to the ZGC Chairperson, Margaret Mukahanana Sangarwe, children are now becoming victims of the violence cycles as they witness it happening on a daily basis.
“The situation for survivors, mainly women and girls, becomes desperate, as abusers are locked-up with their victims while limited mobility reduces the usual access to external assistance.
“Children are also trapped in this vicious cycle of violence as witnesses and/or victims. Women and girls are the worst affected in these circumstances.
“While schools generally provide safe shelter for children, these have been closed indefinitely further locking them within homes,” she added.
She added that the lockdown has presented a conundrum on food security and nutrition among many families in Zimbabwe.
“Without reliable livelihood options, some sections of the population have become extremely vulnerable to hunger and starvation.
“Even though some shops and supermarkets have been opening at scheduled intervals, the fights (pushing and shoving) for access to affordable commodities is so physical that some groups – women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities – cannot cope.
“Some families, majority of whom are female and child headed families still cannot afford the subsidized mealie meal, when this is available,”she said.
She added that, “In the absence of a robust social protection mechanism, food security situation worsens. The same vulnerable groups intrinsically suffer the double brunt of being the vulnerable in a society that has no food security so need to be specially targeted.
“Prevailing stereotypes in an emergency like this, may lead to discrimination of key populations as they are over-looked by the response mechanisms.”
According to the GCZ chair covid-19 has added another layer of responsibility on women and girls from a prevention, protection and care perspective.
“Women are functionally providers of health care at household and professional level. Other than constituting a bigger percentage of professional health care practitioners in Zimbabwe, cultural practices largely give women and girls the responsibility of providing health care to sick family members.
“While both men and women are vulnerable to infection, increased exposure also comes from expected roles and responsibilities in addition to access to personal protective equipment.
“When a country is faced with a health pandemic to the scale of COVID-19, other health issues become secondary as reports shortages in sexual and reproductive health services including contraceptives. This has dire consequences of unplanned pregnancies post-COVID-19,”she added.