Gender-based violence prevalent in eastern, southern Africa during COVID-19 pandemic: Report

Violence against women with disabilities was found to be even higher in the region

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Tuesday 16 March 2021

A recent United Nations report has flagged high levels of gender-based violence (GBV) during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Violence by an intimate partner was reported by more than 40 per cent women in eastern African countries such as Burundi, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the last 12 months, according to the report released March 10, 2021.

Nearly 30 per cent respondents in Uganda, Zambia, Burundi and Kenya reported having experienced violence by current / previous partners in till December 2020.

The pandemic has, therefore, dealt a setback to United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals related to gender in the continent, the report highlighted.

The report was commissioned by UN Women and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). It analysed data from 28 African countries between September and December 2020 to estimate the negative impact of the pandemic on women and girls.

Gender-based violence, coupled with practices such as female genital cut and forced marriages, escalated at the peak of the pandemic amid lockdowns and school closures, the report said.

Most respondents felt that the incidence of GBV had increased during the pandemic with nearly four in ten women (38 per cent) and men (39 per cent) in the sub-region saying they knew at least one person who faced GBV. 

Violence against women with disabilities was found to be even higher than for other groups of women in the ESA region. It is, therefore, important to specifically examine the state of women and girls with disabilities during COVID-19-related lockdowns and the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on these groups, the report noted.

Nearly half the respondents in all countries except Mozambique felt that the incidence of GBV increased during the pandemic.

Countries in the study included Eswatini, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa in Southern Africa. Among the eastern African countries were:

  • Burundi
  • Comoros
  • Djibouti
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mayotte
  • Mozambique
  • Rwanda
  • Uganda
  • Tanzania
  • Seychelles
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • South Sudan
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Some primary data was collected as part of the COVID-19 rapid gender assessments (RG) by UN Women, UNFPA and partners in seven countries in the ESA.

Data collection for the RGAs using the computer-assisted telephonic interviews (CATI) was carried out in Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa. Secondary data is not widely available for gender-specific issues in many countries in the sub-region.

There is an urgent need to expand the coverage of stand-alone, nationally representative prevalence surveys on GBV across the region. It added that continued advocacy work was needed on GBV prevention and services, including increased communication on the available services.

It added that the country needed more information about the usefulness of existing technologies to support reporting mechanisms for survivors of GBV.

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