LAST week, the Oyo State Gender Based Violence Response Team (OYO SGBVRT) made it known that it handled over 200 cases in less than two years and the higher number of reports of gender based violence it received was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, across the world, it was reported that the lockdown increased cases of domestic violence across board.
Experts have confirmed that across the world, as COVID-19 cases increased and stay-at-home orders were imposed, forcing people to work from home and limiting social interaction and confining families to their homes; there was a spike in the cases of intimate partner violence (IPV).
Invariably, the lockdown which was expected to help in curbing the spread of the coronavirus created another pandemic within a pandemic; many victims of gender based violence were trapped with their abusers and pedophiles had a field day as children were at home in a restricted space.
The creation of a pandemic within pandemic reiterates the assertion that insecurity increases during a pandemic and inequities are magnified. As source of livelihood is eroded especially in communities where women depend on daily income, tension increased in many households and consequently led to violence.
There is a belief that while the figures of gender based and sexual violence increased, many remain unreported because restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the virus also reduced access to justice.
And as the second wave of the pandemic takes its toll, it is important to talk of the pandemic that is an offshoot of the COVID-19 pandemic in a bid to protect victims from further violence.
It is said that a major cause of violence during lockdown, aside from the discontent of being holed up and loss of freedom of movement, is financial dependence and financial entanglement with an abusive partner.
This is further heightened by the fact that the lockdown aggravates financial dependence as a result of job loss and unemployment, lack of access to alternative sources of income and shelter in cases of violence as well as travel restrictions which made it impossible to run from violence to a safe house.
Consequently, to reduce the high cases of gender based violence, economic independence for women is an important factor to consider; there is a need for women to have sources of income that staying at home doesn’t hinder. Also, closure of schools and child care facilities which forced parents to cope with bored children and keep them occupied in addition to other emotional stress added to the problem in homes especially in homes where there is a tendency for violence already.
Another important issue is the abuse of children by people close to the family. This is due to the fact that some parents are considered essential workers and because they could not work from home, they had to leave their children with neigbours or family while at work while some left their children alone at home. This gave pedophiles the opportunity to sexually abuse many children, especially the female child.
The added stress of balancing work, child care, and children’s education has resulted to a rise in child abuse; consequently, child care is an important consideration at this period. As the second wave of COVID-19 infections takes hold, steps should be taken to protect children and there must be a system that ensures children are not left at the mercy of sexual predators.
The rise in sexual and domestic violence during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is an indicator that while people are forced to live in what we now see as the new normal, stakeholders must as a matter of priority put the same level of importance given to curbing the spread of the virus to ensuring that social inequities that lead to violence in our communities are eradicated and people who fall victim to abuse continue to have access to support in all areas during this second wave.
Circumstances have proven that violence against women increases during epidemics and emergencies, therefore special consideration should be given to more vulnerable groups at this period.
To be continued.
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