By JESSIE NGOMA-SIMENGWA –
THE lockdown that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic is aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, but to some people it is a source of worry.
Lockdown is one measure that has been adopted to address the spread of what has become a global health pandemic.
For some women, girls and men, however, the lockdown means that they are trapped at home with abusive spouses, partners, family members and neighbours.
Women in Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) is worried that with the Covid-19 pandemic women have become more at risk.
Maureen Tresha, the country director, says the organisation is encouraging people to report any kind of abuse by calling their office or through their Facebook page.
“Even in this period where people are mostly working from home, reports are still being made, and since people may be scared or reluctant to go into a public place, what is important is to give alternative ways of reporting,” Ms Tresha said.
According to research, global lockdowns have seen an increase in gender-based violence (GBV) coupled with limited access to support services.
Organisations that deal with protecting children and women have expressed concern.
The lockdown has seen children being safe from coronavirus, but are instead stuck at home with no school to attend to them but instead face the burden of domestic violence.
Organisations that deal with children and women have expressed concern about the negative outcome of the lockdown being experienced in many countries.
For many children and adolescents, home should be a safe place but this is where they are locked with molesters.
A University of Zambia lecturer says it is important to check up on each other via phone calls, social media and email in an attempt to find out if your loved ones are being abused.
Gabriel Walubita, a clinical neuropsychologist, said in an interview that as Zambia observes the Covid-19 lockdown, there should be a close check on of the positive and adverse effects on the fight against GBV during the lockdown.
“While the positive effect is that now people spend more time at home, neighbours of GBV perpetrators are able to rescue victims of GBV when the act is committed in the same neighbourhood,’’ Mr Walubita said.
He said the negative effects of the lockdown could not be over-emphasised as they include more abuses committed now that the abuser is at home.
Despite the reduction of some cases, GBV and child abuse in Zambia has continued to be a problem and a source of worry as some reported cases are resulting in loss of lives in some cases.
“This looks uglier especially when the abuse takes place in the home where children not attending school during the lockdown have to be exposed to the violence.
“In such a case, the abuser not only abuses the victim, but also the children who experience these atrocities,” he said.
As a practising psychologist, Mr Walubita is concerned about the short and long-term effects on the children which include stress, trauma, depression and low self-esteem, which negatively affect their school performance and socio-emotional functioning.
During the first quarter of 2020, the Zambia Police Service recorded 5,040 cases of GBV countrywide compared to 5,584 recorded in the first quarter of 2019. This shows a decrease by 544 cases translating to a 10.8 per cent reduction.
“There is also need to carry out more research on factors contributing to the number of GBV cases during the Covid-19 lockdown in Zambia so as to introduce preventive measures to protect the lives of GBV victims and their children,” Mr Walubita explains.
Similarly, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Ndola adds that more abuses are being committed during this period as more children and women who are mostly victims of abuse are spending more time at home.
Cynthia Shaba, the focal point person, said the YWCA centre in Ndola is open to anyone seeking help during this period of lockdown.
Ms Shaba also explains how the lockdown will have an impact on organisations such as YWCA as the cases will be overwhelming since more abuses are committed while spending more time at home.
She said the pandemic will have an impact on GBV and child abuse as perpetrators are now home, leaving the victims with very little chance of their own.
“Additionally, with more cases of people being out of employment, we shall have overwhelming cases of reported GBV cases, child maintenance and support, sheltering abused women and children and many other social cases that affect families,” Ms Shaba said.
As Mr Walubita observes, with the lockdown currently in place, victims are encouraged to report those that abuse them not only to the police but also to their trusted friends and family members who can take the necessary steps to help them.
He said that to ensure that children are not traumatised with any kind of abuse that they witness or experience, it is also the duty of the victims of abuse to protect children from abuse that is occurring in the same space.
He added that more child protection facilities should be constructed to shelter survivors of abuse.
He further explained that it was important for all those undergoing any form of abuse to seek counselling services offered by organisations such as the YWCA, Zambia Police Victim Support Unit (VSU) and other private counselling centres.
In addition, he said the Government needed to open up more counselling and child protection centres equipped with knowledgeable and experienced counsellors.
Equally, he said the Zambian Government should review the lockdown and create more opportunities for families to get back to their normal lives.