The government has expressed concern over the rise in Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases due to COVID-19 has reportedly widened existing social and economic inequalities between women and men.
Addressing a virtual meeting on the Impact of COVID-19 Stimulus Packages in Zimbabwe on GBV Interventions, Tawanda Zimhunga, Deputy Director Protection Services in the Ministry of Public Service Labor and Social Services said when households and communities are placed under pressure, the risk of multiple forms of violence can increase hence need social protection.
"Social protection can address the GBV root cause such as inequality and unequal power relations through increasing girls' enrollment and attendance at school, increase women's empowerment and control over key decisions such as household expenditure and contraceptive use. Social protection programs can also reduce and respond to gender-based violence for example if cash transfers can increase economic security, this can lead to a reduction in poverty- related stress," said Zimhunga said.
Ronika Mumbire, Director of the Zimbabwe Women's Bureau called for an analysis of increasing GBV trends since 2020.
"Drought and crop failure, exacerbated by macro-economic challenges and austerity measures differently affecting communities, inﬂation eroding purchasing power and affordability of food Delivery of healthcare, clean water and sanitation, and education has been constrained -no access to vital services.
"The successive recession experienced in 2019 and 2020 was a story of prolonged droughts seasons, natural disasters (cyclone IDAI), and the COVID -19 pandemic. These challenges require a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and the many other global challenges we face during and after the risks,´Mumbire added.
In a report titled Violence Against Women and Girls During the Covid-19 Crisis in Zimbabwe conducted by Musasa Project, the Adult Rape Clinic and the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, data showed that reports of physical violence went up during the lockdown.
"The increase in help-seeking could be due to increased incidence of violence, increased severity of violence, or the inability to use alternative options for escaping violence such as going to stay with relatives," the report notes.
Reports of emotional violence over the same period were up by 80 percent. This represented the sharpest rise during lockdown, "possibly due to heightened household tensions resulting from confined living conditions and increased financial stress".
Most Zimbabweans depend on the informal sector, so the lockdown measures severely hampered families' abilities to earn a living.
Not all cases involved domestic perpetrators. There were also claims of police rape of sex workers arrested during lockdown.
The increase in reports of violence to the NGOs came despite the obstacles placed in the way of survivors trying to get help and these included travel restrictions in place during lockdown, police roadblocks and severe limits on public transport.