As the COVID-19 pandemic rages around the world, women and girls are more vulnerable than ever.
With the world staying at home due to the pandemic, there has been a rise in sexual and gender based violence, according to activists working under African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTADE).
In March this year, President Yoweri Museveni declared a total lockdown as one of the measures to control the spread of the deadly virus and the current period has become a double pandemic for women and girls. Domestic violence is exponentially increasing faster than the COVID – 19 in families under lockdown.
Under the theme, ‘Address violence within families’, ACTADE has gone deep in 8 districts of Uganda including Mubende, Mityana, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi, Kyankwanzi, Kiboga, Gomba and Butambala to support families that are currently experiencing Gender based violence (GBV).
With a team of 363 civic educators working in selected sub counties across the 8 districts, ACTADE found out that cases of rape and defilement are on the increase due to lockdown.
According to Winnie Muwanguzi, programmes Director at the organization, biological fathers, stepfathers are increasingly reported to defile their own children. There is connivance of some family members to cover up some of these cases.
“One case in particular was of a debtor who had agreed with the child’s father to ‘use’ his 13-year old in case the father failed to pay. Worse still, many are not reporting to the police because some victims have not been helped, or are compromised by the perpetrators,” she said.
Ms Muwanguzi also said that was reported that most of the witnessed cases were brought about by men who are not working due to the lockdown. It was reported in various places, that some men, when asked for home consumption items like soap, salt, food, to mention but a few, they become enraged due to the fact that they don’t have the money to buy things.
“Increased poverty (interpreted as lack of money) was also one of the reported causes of GBV. A case in point was report of a pregnant mother who was severely beaten by the husband for failing to fetch 25 jerry cans of water that could help him make bricks. This case was picked from Kasambya village in Mubende district. She nearly lost her life if community members did not intervene quickly. The children in this family were traumatized.
“It is clear that we are witnessing male supremacy in some of these areas. Some men simply do not want to be educated by ladies. Where an intervention is led by a female, even if the issue at hand is resolved, it leaves bad taste in the men’s mouth.”
To solve the issues of the increasing sexual and GBV in the Covid-19 period , Ms Muwanguzi says men and women should accept the realities presented by the pandemic. They should spend time talking through things to come up with working solutions.
“The President should come out clearly on the subject to discourage GBV and to encourage better communication within households.The police should provide a conducive environment for victims of GBV (especially rape and defilement) to report cases and ensure that they are followed up for justice to be served,” she noted.
African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTADE) is a Non-Governmental Organisation fully registered with the National NGO Bureau. ACTADE works with the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), to increase awareness of Human Rights and to support the people to actively engage in government programmes (service delivery).
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