Efforts made to counter GBV in COVID-19 crisis

Efforts made to counter GBV in COVID-19 crisis

Date: May 7, 2020
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By Manteboheleng Mabetha,

Maseru, 7 May: The measures put in place to curb the spread of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) have brought with them an increase in social ills such as Gender Based Violence (GBV).

The Lesotho government has called for a national lock down which prohibits people from leaving their homes except for essential goods and services. Unfortunately, staying home is not safe for everyone as can be seen in the rise of GBV cases in the country.

The Ministry of Gender and the police have reported an increase in cases of GBV since the beginning of  the lock down. The conditions of the lock down mean that victims of GBV have to stay in close proximity to their abusers and have limited access to support mechanisms. In the absence of legislation to address domestic violence cases will continue to rise. Lesotho has not enacted the Domestic Violence Bill. To date the Bill still is still being drafted. In 2018 there was hope that the Bill would be passed as there were consultation meetings around the enactment of Bill but unfortunately it has not seen the light of day.

The pandemic has made it even more difficult for people to have food security with food insecurity being one major driver of GBV in the country. A study conducted in 2016 by UNFPA, as part of the drought response, on the link between drought and GBV revealed that the GBV incidences increase due to food insecurity caused by drought. In the last ploughing season, a majority of Basotho whose livelihoods depend on agriculture were unable to do any farming as a result of the drought and the COVID 19 comes at a time when there is already a huge problem of food insecurity. Under normal circumstances these women would take up jobs as domestic workers and in factories but with the lock down that has proved impossible, even those who were employed in these structures are now with no income.

In the first two weeks of lock down the police received 18 reports of sexual violence alone. These numbers are quite shocking because the movement of people have been restricted and one would expect such incidences to stop. There are other cases that still remain unreported as there are people who assume that the police are not working during this time.

In one case a colleague in the field of gender equality and women’s rights has been killed by her intimate partner. Having someone so close experiencing this has shown me that no one is immune to GBV and we have a great challenge to help the community to fight this monster and to protect ourselves at the same time.

It is worrying that COVID-19 has derailed the efforts made in countering GBV. However, all is not lost as the organisations working in the field of GBV are coming up with innovative ways in which to assist people during this lockdown. There are several television and radio programs that have been designed to raise awareness around GBV and inform people on how they can be assisted. There is also the Nokaneng App which provides information about GBV as well places where GBV can be reported, which can be accessed from their own homes. The use of the app is free for all Vodacom Lesotho subscribers, they only costs incurred are for downloading the app.

At the time when the lockdown was instituted Gender Links was already working on providing support to GBV grievance mechanism through the support provided by UNFPA Lesotho. The support includes assisting the police to better respond to GBV, assisting safe houses to help survivors who have nowhere to go and assisting different call centres to operate effectively.

Nokaneng App can be downloaded on an android deveice from google play store for more information, or it can be accessed by sending an SMS to this number 36677 in Lesotho.

COVID 19 is the only pandemic in the 21st century which has managed to bring the whole world to a halt. To date there have been over three million confirmed cases reported and over 200 000 deaths due to the virus. The world’s most advanced countries including the United States of America, Italy and United Kingdom, to mention a few, are also  struggling to find solutions to end this novel virus.

Lesotho remains the only Southern African country with no confirmed cases thus far. Its only neighbour the Republic of South Africa is however, feeling the effects as its cases are rising daily. By virtue of being completely surrounded by the South Africa, Lesotho remains at risk of getting cases of COVID-19 at any time because of illicit border crossing between the two countries. Due to this risk, Lesotho declared COVID-19 a pandemic even though there are no cases yet.

To report GBV cases in Lesotho call these toll free numbers: 800 111 11 or 800 666 66

Manteboheleng Mabetha is the Gender Links Lesotho Country Manager. This story is part of the GL News Service Gender and COVID-19 news series.



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