by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – FOLLOWING an increase in incidents of gender-based violence (GBV), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has called on authorities to lift a lockdown on shelters and places of safety for victims of abuse.
The bloc wants these places to be considered an essential service and should be expanded as needed during lockdowns across the region.
Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, the SADC Executive Secretary, said this was in line with Article 20 of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which obliges member states to put in place measures to eliminate GBV.
Her sentiments follow the significant rise in cases of domestic violence across the globe, particularly following the lockdown measures instituted by Governments to contain the spread of the virus.
“Clearly, the SADC Region has not been spared,” Tax stated.
Under the lockdown, domestic violence cases tend to increase as security, health, and finance concerns heighten socio-economical tensions, according to experts.
The United Nations (UN) Women reports that globally, some countries highly affected by COVID-19, have registered up to 30 percent increase in reported domestic violence cases and around 33 percent increase in emergency calls for GBV.
Women and girls are the victims.
Tax said the situation was appalling and against the spirit and principles enshrined in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, Regional Strategy and Framework of Action for Addressing GBV (2018-2030) and the Regional Strategy on Women, Peace and Security (2018 – 2022).
These collectively seek to sustainably empower and protect women and girls from sexual and GBV.
Tax said SADC recognises that, in the middle of combating the COVID-19 pandemic, it was easy to overlook the abuses during this crisis.
She appealed to the public and private sectors, civil society, media and community leaders to work together during the COVID-19 crisis to address violence.
“We must all redouble our efforts on zero tolerance to gender-based violence as we fight this devastating COVID-19 pandemic,” Tax said.
– CAJ News