Violence against women, girls in Africa spikes amid COVID-19

September 11, 2020

The national lockdowns imposed to counter the spread of the coronavirus in many African countries have created a fertile ground for violence against women and girls.

United Methodists across the connection are speaking up for abuse survivors and encouraging others to do the same through various church campaigns and training.

“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes. … We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19.  But they can trap women with abusive partners,” said the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a video message.

Media reports from South Africa indicate about 2,300 reports of gender-based violence were made to the police during the first week of the country’s lockdown in March. The surge in violence has continued with President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring it “another pandemic that is raging in our country.”

In a June address, he said he is appalled at the “war being waged” against women and children. “At a time when the pandemic has left us all feeling vulnerable and uncertain, violence is being unleashed on women and children with a brutality that defies comprehension,” he said.

Zimbabwe also is seeing a sharp increase in cases of violence as the pandemic continues to disrupt lives and economies.

“An activist organization, Musasa Project, said they received an increase in calls of 2,768 of (gender-based violence) cases between March and July 2020, resembling an increase of 70% as compared to same time last year,” said the Rev. Taurai Emmanuel Maforo, an online counselor and communicator for the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society continues to conduct awareness training on gender-based violence on the African continent.

“(Gender-based violence) workshops and trainings have been part of every Social Principles training we have held in Africa since we started doing this work at least 15 years ago,” said the Rev. Neal Christie, who directs the agency’s educational opportunities.