Member states of the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum's (SADC-PF's) Women's Parliamentary Caucus which advocates for women's rights and gender equality in the SADC-PF, met to share lessons and experiences that emanate from the gender-based violence (GBV) data that was gathered during the hard lockdown period.
The lessons are taken to assess what should be done to regain lost ground in the fight against GBV in the region. Based on reports presented, countries registered common and vastly different experiences.
Opening the debate on these reports, the Chairperson of the Women's Parliamentary Caucus SADC Region from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ms Anne-Marie Mbilambangu, maintained that the economic freedom of women is central to the fight against GBV because GBV is mainly caused by gender economic inequalities.
"We need to empower businesses led by women to ensure that they are self-sustainable. We have a challenge in our midst, but it's not insurmountable. The task at hand may seem inexhaustible, but if we work together we can explore ways of curbing gender inequality," she said.
Ms Mbilambangu further stated that in her country, the DRC, during this period it worked closely with jthe ustice system, the army and the office of the presidency to stem the tide of GBV. She said it has emerged that the army is to be blamed for the surge in this scourge in the DRC during this period. There have been convictions, she reported. "To date, 325 soldiers have been sentenced for GBV. "We have petitioned the state not to give them amnesty."
A representative from Lesotho, Ms Tsepang Ts'ita-Mosena, ,admitted that her country does not have credible data on GBV. She said through their oversight as parliamentarians, they have had reports of increases in cases of GBV. "Although cases are reported, there's fear that many went unreported during lockdown because of restrictions in movement," she said.
The inaccessibility of data was a problem, "we relied on unverified police statistics to profile the cases of GBV. And that was a huge shortcoming on our part as the Parliament of Lesotho".
The need to strengthen the police, justice system and civil society regarding their collaboration in this regard was more evident during lockdown. She further added: "We had to work with the police, civil society and prosecutors to improve the prosecution rate of GBV cases."
Of all countries present, Zimbabwe presented a detailed account of its GBV data. According to its representative, Ms Goodluck Kwaramba, Zimbabwean authorities incarcerated well over 4 590 perpetrators of GBV during the lockdown period.
A representative from Bostwana, Ms Talita Monnakgotla, also admitted that her country did not have GBV data during the lockdown. But that did not stop them as legislators from "embarking on a public participation campaign on radio, newspapers and television to disseminate a national strategy meant to end GBV and to bring about a guided response to GBV".