Covid-19 lockdown: How homes became 'cages of violence and abuse' for women, children - report

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Women and children in Africa were exposed to abuse during lockdown, a report says.
Women and children in Africa were exposed to abuse during lockdown, a report says.
Getty Images
  • Amnesty International says there was a spike in the abuse of women in southern Africa during the Covid-19 lockdown.
  • Poorer countries diverted sexual healthcare budgets to emergency Covid-19 relief.
  • In South Africa, more than 34 000 babies were born to girls aged 17 or younger.

An Amnesty International (AI) report revealed that Covid-19 lockdown measures had a downside effect in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) in southern Africa because homes became "cages of violence and abuse".

In the report, which coincides with the 16 Days of Activism against GBV (25 November to 10 December), and marked by the United Nations, AI claims that strictly enforced lockdowns led to "shocking levels of gender-based violence across southern Africa, including a horrifying rise in sexual abuse of girls, some as young as nine".

Zimbabwe, one of the poorer countries in the southern African region, was hard hit by the lockdowns. Women Affairs Minister Sithembiso Nyoni in May this year presented a report, which showed a sharp rise in teenage pregnancies during the lockdown period that kept children out of school.

READ | 40% of SA women face abuse on Twitter, says Amnesty International

"A total of 4 959 got impregnated in such a short period and this means that nearly 5 000 of our girls risk losing their educational opportunity if they do not pursue re-admission," she said, adding that 1 774 girls became wives before attaining the legal age of majority, which is 18 years.

The AI report also says all southern African countries failed to have mechanisms in place to avoid another pandemic - child pregnancies - in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"While these restrictive measures aimed to stem the spread of Covid-19, support services for women and girls subjected to violence and abuse were not taken into consideration in the design of the measures to control the spread of Covid-19," the report said, adding:

The Covid-19 containment measures have exacerbated and made more visible sexual violence against women and, particularly girls, which is another pandemic across the region, and resulted in a rise in unwanted pregnancies.

This time last year, Botswana set up 25 gender violence courts to bring justice to victims of sexual and domestic abuse. While a noble idea, gender activists argued the courts would not deter would-be offenders, besides bringing them to justice.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) estimates that about 70 percent of women in Botswana have experienced one form or the other of abuse and sexual violence.


On the other hand, says the AI report, more than 600 South African girls - aged between nine and 10 - gave birth during the first lockdown period, while more than 34 000 babies were born to girls aged 17 or younger.

In Zambia, during the first half of this year, the police recorded 4 000 cases of GBV, of which 804 were sexual offences.

In Zimbabwe and Botswana, the baby boom was attributed to the diversion of resources from sexual healthcare to Covid-19 emergency relief.

READ | SA scientist to lead WHO research into Covid-19 origins

"In certain countries in the region, such as Zimbabwe and Botswana, sexual and reproductive health services were the first to be cut when states were redirecting resources to Covid-19 interventions," says the report.

The theme for this year's 16 Days of Activism against GBV is: "Orange the world: End violence against women now!"

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 1651 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
52% - 8600 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
34% - 5617 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 536 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.