Gender-Based Violence victims urged to speak up during lockdown

The increasing number of  Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases against women and children during the nationwide lockdown is alarming. It is no secret that women and children who live with domestic violence perpetrators have no escape from their abusers during the lockdown.

But the question is: how do you report GBV crimes during the lockdown?

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, GBV against women has become a global problem.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres says in a video message that since restrictions were imposed by countries across the world to combat the coronavirus, women and girls were increasingly facing violence, “where they should be safest: in their own homes.”

Sonke Gender Justice says it is concerned about possible under-reporting of GBV incidents during lockdown:

‘No excuse for violence’

In his announcement of the lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the lockdown was necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. He emphasised that there was no excuse, nor will there ever be any excuse, for violence – against women and children.

Clinical Director from Teddy Bear Clinic’s Dr Shaheda Omar says victims often hold themselves responsible and blaming themselves for the victimisation.

Omar says if abuse is not reported it could result in the death of a victim.

“The outcome may be devastating. Victims should report abuse to the police. In the absence of the police, it could be reported to a helpline (GBV Command Centre, Childline, Lifeline, Suicide Line, SADAG) which are toll-free lines.”

She says psychologically victims feel trapped, immobilised and do not see a way out.

“Everyone has a responsibility. It is a co-responsibility and requires systemic intervention on all levels. The public need to rekindle the spirit of Ubuntu and make the safety of women and children their business and look out or hear out for any untoward behaviour and reach out or even report to the authorities.”

GBV activist and survivor Dikarabo Kotsokoane says victims of GBV rely more on the general public.

“Based on my experience, it helps when you realise and know that you are not alone and people believe you.”

Kotsokoane has urged people to create relationships with their neighbours.

“As a society, we should always be in tune with what is happening around us. We must always be aware of the movements of our neighbours and those around us. Unfortunately, during this pandemic, GBV hardly happens outside in the field or at the river. GBV happens right under our noses with who we are social distancing with. Some victims of GBV will try to relay hints in that they are in trouble. Hence, I say try and be aware of those hints. Create a relationship with your neighbours so that you will be able to help each other.”

Omar says if victims do not open up the cycle of violence will continue. “So, by opening up at least they can be rescued, given a second chance in life and most importantly, break the cycle of violence.”

INFOGRAPHIC: Facts on Gender-Based Violence in South Africa:

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Preliminary crime stats

The 2019-2020 National Crime Statistics are yet to be released officially, however, Minister Bheki Cele says the preliminary reports show a decrease.

Analysing the crime and comparing the first week of the lockdown to the same period in 2019, Cele confirmed that:

– murder cases had dropped from 326 to 94;

– rape cases dropped from 699 to 101;

– cases of assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm dropped from 2 673 to 456; and

– trio crimes dropped from 8 853 to 2 098.

Police Minister Bheki Cele confirmed that the number of GBV complaints remains high and concerning during quarantine.

“Over 2 300 calls or complaints have been registered since the beginning of the lockdown on 27 March 2020 until 31 March 2020 and from these, 148 suspects were charged. The figure in relation to calls or complaints between January 2020 and 31 March 2020 stands at 15 924. Once all reports have been consolidated, the figures will be measured against the number of calls or complaints received through the GBV Command Centre in 2019, where the figure stands at 87 920.”

Meanwhile, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says she’s deeply alarmed by the number of calls that her department has received from women who are trapped with abusive partners during the lockdown period.

“I am deeply concerned about criminals who take advantage of the national lockdown to rob and murder innocent citizens. We want women and children to be safe during this time. Now with President announcing a mass testing campaign, we must ensure that women are safe in their homes and that every precaution is taken by Security Services to ensure that perpetrators do not attempt to take advantage of the situation by pretending to work for the government,” says Minister Nkoana-Mashabane.

In the video below, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane expresses concern over GBV incidents:

Members of the public who feel threatened are urged to contact the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre on 0800 428 428 or  *120*786#.

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