The Harsh Reality on Increased Gender Based Violence Amidst a Pandemic

Don’t beat me! Don’t do it! It hurts! Somebody help me! Stop! Why are you doing this to me! Stop beating me! Don’t kill me! These are the cries of countless men and women in almost every corner of the world. Gender based violence now referred as a “shadow pandemic” has caused the death of many men, women and girls. The UN is now referring to it as a shadow pandemic due to the fact that Gender Based Violence cases are at an all time high due to COVID-19. In china alone, the cases have tripled. In Kenya cases received by the national Gender Based Violence Hotline, 1195, have increased by 25%, from 810 cases in September (as of 29 September 2020) to 646 cases in August.

Among the many challenges brought about by COVID-19, Gender based violence has been one of the most detrimental. From high complain rates on domestic violence helplines to the death of countless men and women. Globally before the pandemic, one in three women experienced physical or sexual violence but now statistics suggest that it is two in three women. This is according to UN reports.

A study undertaken by the Ministry of Health and Population Council (April 2020) on COVID-19 Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices and Needs showed that 39 per cent of women and 32 per cent of men were experiencing tensions in their homes.

The current lockdowns, isolations, quarantine, restricted movements and social distancing have caused the increase of intimate partner violence. This is because men, women and girls are now spending more time with their abusers or potential abusers. I recently found out that domestic violence increases whenever families spend time together — even on happy occasions. This is according to Gender Based violence researchers.

Unfortunately for women and girls globally, violence is a daily reality. Here in Kenya, government data suggests that 45 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence and 14 percent have experienced sexual violence. Unfortunately for most victims, their cases go unreported and unpunished. In Liberia from the month of January to June, the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection received reports of more than 1,000 cases of sexual or gender-based violence. A number that prompted President Weah to declare rape a national emergency and outlined plans to appoint a special prosecutor to handle rape cases, create a national sex offenders registry, and earmark $2 million to address the problem.

Gender Based Violence against men is often overlooked, as people assume it doesn’t happen. But the reality on the ground is that men do experience Gender Based Violence infarct at an intimate level.  According to statistics, 15% of men in the United States have experienced intimate partner abuse.  However, it is quite difficult to gain access to the actual number of victims as men are often ashamed of it. In Congo, one in three male refugees have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.

A Liberian mother choked back tears as she recounted how a police commander refused to accept her report about a neighbor who raped and impregnated her 13-year-old daughter. The officer didn’t believe her. (Source: Vital news)

It is so sad to see such cases being treated as a joke. Despite the fact that this is only one case it is a representation of the many cases that have been treated as a joke. The prevalence of such violence appears to have been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The police refusing to help the people is a sad state of affairs for every community. We only hope governments will take the bull by its horns and ensure every citizen is respected and their cases taken seriously.

Did you know? A third of all women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, half of women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family, and violence perpetrated against women is as common a cause of death and incapacity for those of reproductive age, as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than road accidents and malaria combined? Shocking, right?

According to the statistics presented in this article, it means that somebody around you is going through it. It could be a friend, co-worker, sister, neighbor or even you. There is therefore a need to end Gender Based Violence; it could be through reporting abusers to authorities or by supporting victims walk away from abusers. Before I leave, I want you to look around you and ask yourself one question. What am I doing to impact the society positively? And if you don’t have an answer to that, I have a suggestion for you: Why not start by leading the fight against Gender Based Violence. It can be as simple as educating people on what to do when they experience GBV or the signs to look out for in order to avoid falling in to the GBV trap, or even by helping create new laws that will help end Gender Based Violence if you’re in a position to. 

Together, let’s end Gender Based Violence.


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