The United Nations Secretary General has called on governments everywhere to make prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19. In a statement, Antonio Guterres says while lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing the virus, the restrictions could also trap women with abusive partners.

“Over the past weeks as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence. In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled. Meanwhile, healthcare providers and police are overwhelmed and understaffed. Local support groups are paralysed or short of funds. Some domestic violence shelters are closed; others are full. I urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.”

In the video below, government describes gender-based violence as a national crisis: 

South Africa’s Police Minister Bheki Cele recently announced that close to 100 000 cases of alleged gender-based violence had been reported to police within the first week of the country’s lockdown.

Guterres called for a collective effort to prevent violence everywhere from war zones to people’s homes as the world works to beat COVID-19.

“That means increasing investment in online services and civil society organisations. Making sure judicial systems continue to prosecute abusers, setting up emergency warning systems in pharmacies and groceries, declaring shelters as essential services and creating safe ways for women to seek support, without alerting their abusers. Women’s rights and freedoms are essential to strong, resilient societies.”

In the video below, South Africa sees an alarming increase of GBV reports during the national lockdown:

Sonke Gender Justice asks organisations dealing with GBV to co-ordinate activities

Non-Governmental Organisation Sonke Gender Justice says organisations that deal with GBV should co-ordinate their activities and share information in order deal with the problem effectively.

On Saturday, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said she was deeply alarmed by the number of calls that her department had received from women who were trapped with abusive partners during the lockdown period.

The Gender-Based Violence Command Centre has received three times higher than the usual amount of calls from women.

The organisation’s Nonhlanhla Skosana says government should also come on board.

“And we have ongoing conversations with different stakeholders. Civil society organisations have written to different ministers regarding the concerns that they have around issues of gender-based violence. We’d appreciate if we could get co-operation also from government regarding the issue at this present moment.”

In the video below, Sonke Gender Justice says it’s concerned about possible under-reporting of GBV cases: