SADC warns against domestic violence neglect amidst Coronavirus

By Yamikani Yapuwa, MANA

Southern African Development Community (SADC) Wednesday said governments, stakeholders and law enforcement establishments should not neglect domestic violence as they are focusing on measures to contain and enforce COVID-19 regulations and measures in the communities.

The UN Women report showed that some countries around the world, particularly those highly affected by COVID-19, have registered up to 30 percent increase in reported domestic violence cases and around 33 percent increase in emergency calls for gender-based violence, with women and girls being the victims of these acts.

SADC executive secretary, Stergomena Tax said under the lockdown, domestic violence cases tend to increase as security, health and finance concerns heighten socio-economical tensions. 

“Women that have been in abusive relationships are now forced to be at home with their abusers for a prolonged period, making it difficult for them to reach out for help due to the presence of the abusive partner at home,” Tax said in a statement. 


“Social distancing in itself makes it difficult for women victims to reach out to their usual support systems, particularly friends and other family members. 

“In addition, the COVID-19 quarantine centres and temporary accommodation facilities for the homeless have the potential of being a breeding ground for sexual and gender-based violence, if not managed appropriately.” 


Tax said there was need for member states to provide flexible and innovative tools for reporting, counselling services, and support to domestic violence.


“Pandemics like COVID-19 can make reporting of abuses harder due to the disruption of public services and limited access to communication facilities such as phones and helplines. 

“It is important for the Member States to provide flexible and innovative tools for reporting, counselling services, and support to domestic violence. 

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“These tools must be clearly communicated to enable those affected to access and utilise them. In response to this crisis, particularly during lockdown, shelters and places of safety for victims of abuse must be considered an essential service and should be expanded as needed.”

This, she said, was in line with article 20 of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which obliges Member States to put in place measures to eliminate gender-based violence.

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Its implementation is guided by the Regional Strategy and Framework of Action for Addressing Gender Based Violence (2018-2030) and the Regional Strategy on Women, Peace and Security (2018-2022), which collectively seek to sustainably empower and protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence.

“May all public sector, private sector, civil society, media and community leaders work together during the COVID-19 crisis, while considering the differential impact of the crisis on women and men, boys and girls. 

Coronavirus alert

“With collective efforts and commitment, we can avoid a double crisis of COVID-19 and gender-based violence, and the associated far reaching consequences to our society. 

“We must all redouble our efforts on zero tolerance to gender-based violence as we fight this devastating COVID-19 pandemic,” Tax pointed out.