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Sexual and Gender based violence during the lockdown and how WGDs are at risk of violence

ON 31st March 2020, media reports in Uganda indicated that “five people had died due to domestic violence since government imposed ‘stay at home ‘measures in mid-March”. In addition, Uganda’s Police spokesman Fred Enanga reported that police noticed a raise in domestic violence cases including murder adding that police would before register one or two cases over same period of time. As expected, while domestic violence increased, other cases significantly reduced, he said.
In Uganda, 46% of women have – before these measures were introduced – experienced physical violence and live in fear of their current or most recent partner. These figures have increased during lockdown and confinement, as security, health, and income worries, heighten tensions in homes. Credible reports indicate that there has been a surge in sexual gender-based violence, including mortalities since the lock-down was introduced.
What haunts is, the reports of security personnel beating up women in their homes and on their way to health facilities, which have led to grievous bodily and psychological harm. Several women’s rights organizations and child rights advocates, including the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers, have recorded a rise in incidents of domestic violence and violence against children as a result of the lockdown.
At IDIWA, we are trying our best with our partners on how best we can support the Sexual reproductive health, wellbeing, and safety of Women and Girls with disabilities, their care takers, families where they belong and communities during this challenging period. For women and girls already at-risk due to vulnerability, COVID-19 presented an increased risk for violence, abuse, and neglect while their parents and caretakers struggle to purchase enough food and sanitation products.
The majority of the Women and Girls with Disabilities and their parents and caretakers have informal employment, for example operating public transport such as taxis and boda-bodas, and running small businesses such as market stalls, tailoring shops, and salons (informal and low paid jobs) and therefore, their specific needs must be taken into account in gender-responsive crisis and recovery planning.
However, Nathan Mwesigye Byamukama (Director Regional Training Facility which is a regional center of excellence for Training and sensitization of judicial officers, police units, social workers, medical officers and other categories of persons who handle sexual violence in the great lakes region on how to efficiently and effectively to perform r on suggests Four Ways Out of a Double Pandemic) suggested the a few suggestions for individuals/ families and government(s) so as to cope from such situation.

  1. First, have a positive attitude that we shall overcome this COVID-19. It must be clear to all members of the family that the pandemic is not anybody’s fault. We need to fight the pandemic and not each other. This realization comes from smooth, honest and transparent communication with all family members. If the big challenge is dwindling financial resources, discuss how best you can mobilize more and also adjust the budget together. The family will understand and provide options. If the problem is negative masculinity where the man still wants to show his power over women and children, it is time to adjust your attitude and realize that if you combine your power as a man with that of your wife and children you easily overcome the challenge together. You don’t need to pretend that you have the resources when you don’t. And the wife does not have to still expect the man to provide everything when it is clear he is unable even if he is willing. This is the opportunity to demonstrate that you can support each other for the good of the family.
  2. Second, it might be inevitable as people who stay together, to disagree and quarrel but never allow the disagreements to go beyond words. Never allow disagreements to degenerate into violence. Just walk in the compound, meditate, do press-ups, clean and walk around the compound to cool off. It works. Don’t resort to drinking alcohol as a way of cooling off. In addition, move to your computer or smart phone, if you have one, and learn a new skill or read newspapers or other messages on your phone. Call friends to hear some good stories. Just do what you love most- it is a useful therapy.
  3. Thirdly, to government, our front line security forces and health care systems must be skilled and sensitive enough to receive any disclosure of gender based violence with respect, sympathy and confidentiality. This restores confidence, hope and sense of justice to the victim/survivor while assuring effective punishment of the perpetrator.
  4. Fourthly, as part of the Standard Operating Procedures, keep referral pathways open for abused women, girls, boys or children so that they can freely access care services like hospitals and police stations even during the awkward hours of the curfew. Ensure that that referral pathways remain fully equipped, open and effective enough to even meet sexual and reproductive needs and rights of women and girls during the lockdown.
    Together, we can simultaneously fight COVID-19 and Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

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