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How Women Can Keep Safe as GBV Reports Spike Up During Lockdown

What is GBV?

GBV is an acronym for Gender-Based Violence, which is a very common issue that many people face all over the world, but widespread and a profound issue in South Africa. You will find many different definitions of GBV. It is broadly defined as a term that is used to capture the violence that is inflicted on a person of the opposite sex. It can also refer to violence which occurs as a result of normal role expectations that are linked with each gender, along with relationships with unequal gender power.

The expectations vary from one society to another and are different for each gender. But in most societies, men are considered superior to women, and women cannot participate fully in society, meet their basic needs, or even protect their bodies while men inflict violence on them. The unequal power relationships between genders are the root cause of GBV.

There are several different forms of GBV that include –

  • Violence against women and children
  • Violence against the LGBTIA community
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Indirect or structural violence

Gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time.

How does the lockdown affect GBV?

Early December 2019 was the start of a pandemic that affected everyone worldwide. The COVID-19 started in Wuhan and spread across all countries rapidly. It was declared to be a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March, and since then, several measures have been implemented to stop the virus from spreading. One such measure implemented by several countries is total lockdown.

Towards the end of March, there were nearly 708 COVID-19 cases in South Africa. Taking into consideration the depth of the problem, South Africa declared a 21-day lockdown until the 16th of April. As a result, the GBV during lockdown more than just increased. The numbers were shocking as women were trapped inside their house with their abusers.

Lockdowns have increased the global GBV rates, as many were left vulnerable and in danger within their house; but the fate of South African women was much worse. The pandemic has increased the level of anger and frustration in many who abuse their partners to vent out their frustration. The daily routine of a household is disrupted, financial concerns and job security increase the stress level, depleting food resources result in additional stress, and isolation from social circles adds to the already existing anxiety and pressure. The victims thus become more vulnerable.

The concern raised by the National Shelter Movement of South Africa was right. GBV stats during the lockdown in South Africa was shocking as 87000 cases were reported in the first week of national lockdown by the National GBV Command Center. There was an increase in rape, sexual offences, and domestic violence, and these crimes were caused by the reduced movement of people due to lockdown. 

The lockdown was a necessity, and if people failed to comply, it would increase the number of COVID-19 affected people in the country and probably would also increase the number of causalities. More lives would have been lost if the lockdown was not initiated.  Little did anyone know the women would be stuck between two pandemics at once, GBV and the COVID-19.

How can women keep safe during the lockdown? Are there any women safety tips?

The safety of South African women became a major concern during the lockdown as the number of cases registered tripled. Women were trapped within four walls with their abusers with no means of escape. The lockdown increased the frequency of violence as stress increased, and women were left to wonder what to do when facing abuse and who to report to when being abused. GBV increased not only in South Africa but all over the world.

Several organizations that stood against GBV believed that COVID-19, GBV, and gender inequality have a direct relationship that cannot be overlooked. The level of violence increased drastically during the lockdown, and it needs increased attention now more than ever. Women weren’t the only ones at risk, but children as well. Children were at risk of sexual violence as much as women were.

Shelters for abused women during lockdown is a concern. Several measures are being taken to ensure the safety of women and children affected by GBV in South Africa, as well as the rest of the world. The National Shelter Movement of South Africa is the umbrella body that represents 78 shelters for abused women and children in the nation. As shelter is considered an essential service, the facilities remain throughout the lockdown.

The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children and Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement assured that there were enough resources to assist women and children who were a victim of abuse. Several measures were put in place to ensure their safety as well.

Any victim of GBV can contact the following numbers –

  • LifeLine SA Stop Gender Violence National Helpline – 0800 150 150
  • National DSD’s Gender-Based Violence Command Centre – 0800 428 428

Apart from the above contacts, if any victim fails to reach any of the helplines, they can seek help by dialing *120*7867# to contact the center via the ‘Please Call Me’ service. You can also reach the center via skype. Just add ‘Helpme GBV’ to skype contacts and reach out as and when needed. Additionally, social workers at the command centers can be reached by dropping an SMS with the word ‘Help’ to 31531.

For more information, visit http://gbv.org.za/about-us/. Remember, you are not alone.

How Women Can Keep Safe as GBV Reports Spike Up During Lockdown

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