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GBV increases under COVID-19 restrictions

July 3, 2020 3 min read

MASERU - While disease outbreaks threaten population’s health, like it is the case now as the Covid-19 pandemic prevails, aggressive response measures such as the lockdown increase gender-based violence and threatens the lives as well as livelihoods of women and girls in Lesotho.

Reports of domestic violence in Lesotho are following a similar heightening trend like in other parts of the world, officials have said. The Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association’s (LPPA) on Saturday held its 49th Annual General Meeting, whose theme was heal the world; end gender based violence.

Speaking at the event, the acting principal secretary Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation ’Mabataung Khalane, said recent statistics from the police’s Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) show that during this period of the Covid-19 outbreak, the number of sexual violence cases increased. A few weeks ago, a student from Lerotholi Polytechnic was brutally raped and murdered by a group of boys in Thabong, Maseru.

Khalane said that was not the only case reported where women and girls were brutalised in various forms by men during this period. The attacks she said rob the nation of productive members of society who could contribute to the development of the country. She said there are challenges that are posed by gender based violence, adding that it is intertwined with Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRHR) which makes it a significant health, social and economic problem.

“It robs women and girls the ability to control their own sexual and reproductive health, placing them at greater risk of contracting HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, failure to plan their families, child spacing, unwanted pregnancy which might result in illegal abortions, due to inability to negotiate the use of condoms or other contraceptives with their partners. It is also a barrier to women in accessing health care services,” she said.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) as a global and public health problem as well as fundamental violation of women’s rights is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate and compromising position, he noted. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) one in three women worldwide has experienced either physical and/ or sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate or non-intimate partner.

Lesotho is no exception in this regard as a recent survey by Gender Links shows that 86% of women experience GBV one way or the other in their lifetime. Even though, there are other forms of GBV that women and girls are exposed to, physical and sexual violence represent a larger proportion of violations.

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She said there is also a link between GBV and psychological trauma. “Studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO) have shown that women who have experienced physical and sexual abuse have higher incidences of developing depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), sleeping disorder and high level of substance abuse to help them cope with the situation and this at times lead to suicide,” she said.

Another issue of concern she said is stigmatisation and fear which further poses a problem in tackling GBV. She said many women fail to report their cases or even seek health and legal services as well as psychosocial support because of fear of being stigmatised. The ministry she further showed works tirelessly to come-up with strategies to prevent GBV, adding that violence  against women and girls is not acceptable, hence should never be tolerated.

“There is therefore a need to scale up efforts across a range of sectors both to prevent violence from happening in the first place and to provide necessary services for women experiencing violence,” she showed. For his part, LPPA president Boithabiso Sithole said their aim is to ensure that women and girls, in particular, get the relevant support they need to be free from any form of violence.

He said it was their mandate to ensure that people in Lesotho and around are safe. Sithole said it is their responsibility to also ensure that every family is well protected against gender based violence.

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