Eastern Cape-based Women’s rights organisation, Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre, has expressed shock at the rise of gender-based violence during the lockdown.

The organisation says there has been a spike in rape, incest and marital rape cases. It believes the violence is linked to the frustration of being in confined spaces, and the restriction of movement.

The organisation’s seven shelters across the province have rescued a number of women and children during the lockdown.

This person who was rescued by Masimanyane says, “He used to strangle and beat me because he accused me of infidelity to a point where I had to spend days in the hospital fighting for my life whilst pregnant.”

The organisation’s Dr Lesley-Ann Foster, who is also part of the Presidential Gender-Based Violence Steering Committee, says they are working round the clock to improve the legislation on gender-based violence.

Foster says, “What I do want to say is that Masimanyane is an essential service organisation and so what is important is that we have people providing those essential on a 24-hour basis the shelter.”

Sonke Gender Justice says it is concerned about possible under-reporting of GBV incidents during lockdown:

‘Women stay with their abusers 24-7’

A Cape Town-based organisation, the One-Thousand Women Trust says it is seeing more cases because women are staying with their abusers 24-7.

The Trust’s Caroline Peters says they are also concerned because domestic violence shelters in South Africa are reaching capacity or unable to take new survivors due to lockdown and social distancing regulations.

Peters says in order to provide support to survivors, the trust is raising money for 25 women-led groups who work in communities across the country.

Police statistics for the first week of lockdown show that more than 2300 complaints of gender-based violence were recorded.

The One-Thousand Women Trust says this is 37 % higher than the weekly average last year.

Peters says, “As an activist working in the Athlone area, I see through the communities that I serve, just from today, I have dealt with two cases, yesterday I dealt with the rape case of the girl in Strandfontein, you know. So we have seen from us that works in the Cape Flats how it’s increased. We must remember during this period; women are locked-up with their abusers 24/7. There’s withdrawals, addictions and frustrations are high.”

In the video below, Bafana Khumalo speaks about the alarming increase in cases of gender-based violence:

Preliminary crime stats

The 2019-2020 National Crime Statistics are yet to be released officially, however, Minister Bheki Cele says the preliminary reports show a decrease.

Analysing the crime and comparing the first week of the lockdown to the same period in 2019,  Cele confirmed that:

– murder cases had dropped from 326 to 94;

– rape cases dropped from 699 to 101;

– cases of assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm dropped from 2 673 to 456; and

– trio crimes dropped from 8 853 to 2 098.

Cele confirmed that the number of gender-based violence complaints remained high and concerning.

He says, “Over 2 300 calls or complaints have been registered since the beginning of the lockdown on 27 March 2020 until 31 March 2020 and from these, 148 suspects were charged. The figure in relation to calls or complaints between January 2020 and 31 March 2020 stands at 15 924. Once all reports have been consolidated, the figures will be measured against the number of calls or complaints received through the GBV Command Centre in 2019, where the figure stands at 87 920.”

In the video below, Bheki Cele discusses the drop in crime:

INFOGRAPHIC: Facts on Gender-Based Violence in South Africa:

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Additional reporting by Amanda Xhala