Shelters for abused women in SA exceeded capacity during lockdown: study

The report is titled ‘Treated like Furniture’ and covers five countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar.

FILE: Women stand together against gender-based violence. Picture: Twitter @702.

CAPE TOWN - Amnesty International has on Tuesday released a report on the rise of gender-based violence during COVID-19 in Southern Africa.

The report is titled ‘Treated like Furniture’ and covers five countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar.

It analyses the response by these governments amid COVID-19 lockdowns.

Amnesty International Southern Africa conducted interviews with representatives of 26 women organisations during May and June last year.

They found an escalation of gender-based violence across all five countries during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The group's deputy regional director for Southern Africa Muleya Mwananyanda said: “In Madagascar, there was anecdotal evidence indicating an escalation. For example, the number of women calling the GBV helpline increased tenfold from 50 to 500 during a six-day period shortly after the lockdown or restrictions were imposed."

In Zambia, the findings raised concern over possible under-reporting, while in South Africa, the figures reported were shocking.

"In the Western Cape, the Cape Flats Women’s Movement (CFWM) documented a spike in gender-based violence at the beginning of the lockdown, registering the most dramatic surge in the third week of the lockdown. CFWM recorded cases of women trapped at home with partners using drugs who forced them to sell household furniture to buy drugs," the group added.

It was found shelters for abused women in South Africa were exceeding capacity, making it difficult for them to operate effectively.

“In Zimbabwe, the Musasa Project documented close to 800 cases of violence in the first 11 days of the national lockdown. This is compared to an average of 500 per month before the lockdown.”

All the shelters reported a lack of resources to help women.

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