By Nomalanga Makwelo
The imposed national lockdown from March 2020 has increased cases of Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) among women and girls and the failure to access basic services by victims.
According to a report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Community and SMEs Development to ascertain the level of public service delivery related to Sexual gender based violence and Covid 19 , for the period 28 September to October 1 2020 , presented to Parliament on Tuesday last week , women and girls have been exposed to all forms of gender based violence such as sexual, physical , emotional and socio-economic violence.
According to the committee SGBV cases increased by 70%, with records from the Msasa hotline indicating that at national level 94 percent of the calls made to the hotline were from women whilst the remaining 6 % were from men.
In Gwanda 75 % of the calls made to the hotline were from women and 25 % from men .Msasa further informed the Committee that at national level, from July to September 2020, an increase in psychological violence recorded 55 % of total cases as compared with previous months.
The report highlights that the lockdown influenced SGBV as it restricted economic activities within communities in which a majority survive through the informal sector . Such a scenario has resulted in short supply of basic needs thereby fueling tensions among couples with SGBV being the outcome.
The lockdown period is also said to have increased the risks of SGBV as victims were trapped with their abusers.
The report also highlighted that SGBV victims especially those in rural areas had difficulties in accessing health care services , psychosocial support, legal and police services as most of the centers which provide these are in urban areas but due to transport constraints they failed to access them.
The Committee was told that the advent of COVID-19 led to a sudden halt in provision of safe space for victims of gender based violence. Financial constraints also limited victims from accessing safe houses during the period as some centers are alleged to have asked victims to provide them with negative Covid 19 test results before they could be admitted into the centers.
The Committee was greatly concerned that during COVID-19 lockdown period, gender based violence victims faced
difficulties in accessing these critical services. In that regard, COVID-19 emergency responses have been gender insensitive.
The committee however called on the government to recognize SGBV service delivery and personnel as essential services in this Covid 19 era and other future pandemics.
The Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) (2015) reports that 45 % of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence at some point in their lives. According to the 2019 Zimbabwe Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), at least 10 121 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced sexual violence, with 55.1% of perpetrators being current husbands, partners, and relatives. The survey further highlighted that 39.4% of girls and women have experienced physical violence, with 71.4% perpetrators being the husband or partner.