Lockdown aggravates domestic violence: ‘He uses me as a punching bag’

South African women and non gender conforming individuals across Gauteng marched their way to the Union Building in Pretoria. The women marched against gender based violence under the #totalshutdown banner.Picture: Rosetta Msimango
South African women and non gender conforming individuals across Gauteng marched their way to the Union Building in Pretoria. The women marched against gender based violence under the #totalshutdown banner.Picture: Rosetta Msimango

“By the time this lockdown ends, my family will be fetching me from a coffin because my husband would have killed my child and me. We won’t survive his wrath. He uses me as a punching bag.”

*Gladys Mkhonto (30) said she had no idea where her husband got alcohol but, since the lockdown began, she had been harshly beaten by him regularly.

Speaking to City Press, Mkhonto described the conditions under which she had lived since the lockdown began.

“I have a five-year-old daughter who watches her father beat up her mother. Only God knows where he gets the alcohol from because, after drinking, he uses me as a punching bag.

“He kicks me and tells me how useless I am. I can’t report him because, should he find out, I am a dead woman. He will look for me and kill me for ruining his reputation and I will just become another statistic,” Mkhonto said.

“This week he tied me up and locked me up, then he forgot about me. He threatened to take my child from me if I reported it. He tells me that he has friends at the police station and they would not do anything to him. Reporting it would be a waste of time. The only time they would react was if I was dead.”

I have a five-year-old daughter who watches her father beat up her mother. Only God knows where he gets the alcohol from because, after drinking, he uses me as a punching bag.
Gladys Mkhonto*

Police Minister Bheki Cele told City Press that more than 3 000 domestic violence complaints had been reported since the beginning of the lockdown.

Only 148 suspects had been charged.

Like Mkhonto, *Thuli Xaba (29) told City Press she would not even consider applying for a restraining order for fear of being killed.

“The lockdown will be the end of me. He will kill me before I am able to return home.

"The lockdown makes it difficult for me to run away because home is in the Eastern Cape. My boyfriend suddenly lost his job as a contract chef, and he has anger issues. He is always angry that I still have a job.

"He says, ‘Imina indoda kulendlu, akukho mfazi ozosebenza uma mina ngingasebenzi’ [I am the man of the house, no woman can work while I’m unemployed].

“He calls me names and last weekend he pushed me down the stairs because I took too long to prepare his food and he said I deserved the punishment.

“I can’t involve the police because he will stalk me and kill me. If he finds out I have spoken out, he will kill me. I can’t apply for a restraining order because he will kick my one-year-old son and me out and we will be homeless,” Xaba said.

Read: What not to do when women cry for help

Speaking to City Press, Lesley Ann Foster, director of Masimanyane Women’s Rights International, said the police should expect a spike in the number of gender-based violence cases as the lockdown continued.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of women seeking help. These numbers are going to increase because this lockdown forces people to be in one place all day long and frustration leads to fights because of being in confined spaces,” said Foster.

She said that, as men lost jobs because of the pandemic, they would be home for more extended periods “and tension is likely to rise as a result”.

“Men can use the threat of a pandemic to initiate or increase the physical isolation of women, which renders them more vulnerable to abuse. This can lead to victims, who face increasing gender-based violence, feeling a sense of helplessness as they might not know how to cope,” Foster said.

She said gender-based violence had claimed more than 20 lives since the lockdown, mostly from the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, where children and women had been raped and killed.

I can’t apply for a restraining order because he will kick my one-year-old son and me out and we will be homeless,
Thuli Xaba*

Gender-based violence did not mean only violence by men against women, but also by women against men.

Foster said the lockdown would increase the numbers of abuse cases.

*Sipho Mgomezulu (33) said that the lockdown had been difficult. He was suffering from both emotional and physical abuse.

“No one takes me seriously. I am afraid to go to the police station because they will laugh at me. They do not believe a man can be abused by a woman. They will call me weak because I can’t beat up my wife.

“The lockdown has shown me a side of her I did not know. She beats me up for no reason. She humiliates me in front of the children.

“She slaps me, punches me, kicks me and provokes me. It is very hard to endure. The neighbours have to come to my aid because I know if I return any punches the law will always take her side. This lockdown has brought me nothing but shame and pain,” Mgomezulu said.

Globally, it had been reported that lockdowns had resulted in an increase in domestic violence and abuse, leaving women especially vulnerable and in danger.

*Not their real names


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