COVID-19 opens floodgates of abuse on women

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MUTARE – Ruvimbo (28) (not her real name) of Mutare wakes up at 5am. Her husband is lying next to her and snoring noisily.

The previous night the husband (32), a commuter omnibus driver, had
come home drunk and distressed.

He used to work as a commuter omnibus driver, plying the City-Dangamvura route before informal transport was outlawed in a bid to restrict the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

For him and other affected drivers, the indefinite suspension of the public transport, known as Kombis in street lingo, had proved to be a blow on them.

“How many days will be like this? Where will I get the money now? How am l going to survive?” shouted the hubby, throwing a bottle of the illicit beer affectionately known as Kozodo he had just finished
drinking.

The outbursts have become a daily bread for his small family.

“It has been worse during this lockdown. He throws things against the
wall and pulls me by the hair,” says Ruvimbo.

He has hit her many times during the lockdown for no apparent reasons, including small matters like changing television channels and choice of music to play.

“Usually, he saves his anger for me. The more time we are together, the more the abuse,” Ruvimbo said.

This woman is not alone, as hundreds of women in Zimbabwe and many others worldwide have succumbed to the same abuses, as small arguments have opened floodgates of abuse on them.

One woman told Zim Morning Post that life had become intolerable
since the COVID-19 lockdown started.

“He even forces me to have sex with him while I am on my (menstrual) periods,” says the woman, who asked not to be named, adding she had been suffering mental and physical abuse from her partner for the past three months.

“He grabs my phone every time, thinking I am cheating on him yet I
will be with him all the time,” she said with tears running down her cheeks.

Calls have been made for stakeholders to amplify interventions in the
wake of rolling cases of gender-based violence, particularly during the COVID -19 lockdown era.

Musasa Project, a local Non-Governmental Organisation in Zimbabwe, has said cases of domestic violence have risen from 49 each day, from 15 during the first days of the lockdown period.

In an interview on the sidelines of a recent workshop on gender-based
violence in Mutare, Musasa Project Advocacy Programme Officer, Rotina
Mafume-Musara confirmed that gender-based violence was on the rise and went unnoticed or unreported.

During emergencies and pandemics, sexual gender-based violence is on the rise and it usually goes unnoticed or unreported. We need to come up with emergency solutions to gender-based violence,”
Mafume-Musara said.

We have realised that cases of GBV have risen from as little as 15 to
49 cases in a day and more than 2 500 cases have been recorded during the lockdown,”
she said.

“I encourage each of us to take GBV more seriously; to not look away
and allow women to suffer in silence any more, and to put women at the centre of this issue,
” Mafume-Musara said.

Let’s help these women have a voice, and speak up when they have
none. It’s no longer okay to be a bystander; we have shared
responsibility and everyone has a duty to report,
” she said.

Mutasa North legislator Chido Madiwa, who is the chairperson of the
Women and Gender Parliamentary Portfolio Committee in the Parliament of Zimbabwe, said government was putting in place measures to curb the increasing cases of GBV.

We are now working on how we can actually increase awareness in as
far as gender-based violence is concerned.

There is need to embark on more advocacy on the assistance programme and legal aid issues,” she said.

 “Legal aid is one such initiative that can help in addressing these matters. There is, however, a need to decentralize the facility as
well,
” said the legislator.

Manicaland Minister of State, Ellen Gwaradzimba slso urged government to act with due diligence in order to prevent and investigate violence.

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