Gender based violence is not a new phenomenon in Africa. It has become normalized since time immemorial due to culture and religion.
By Julius Chadeba
Culturally women were supposed to be under their husbands, giving men control over the family. This meant that the man took advantage of the culture-imposed power to abuse women and children without any consequences. Reporting your husband or father for women and children was thus viewed as bringing shame to the family, resulting in victims suffering in silence.
As times evolved and generations came and passed, African culture and traditions began to fade away and were eventually wiped away by a new phenomenon called democracy which came with colonization.
Democracy gave birth to equality amongst man and women.
African nations adopted laws that would safeguard women and girls from gender based violence and abuse. These laws included convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW).
The convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979 and was described as a major victory for women in Africa as it was expected to help countries to protect women from gender based violence.
As the world and Africa as a whole thought that it was winning the war against gender based violence, there came the COVID-19 pandemic which hit the world affecting almost all African nations. As countries battled to contain further spread of this deadly disease, lockdowns meant to restrict the movement of people were imposed.
Although it was meant to prevent and protect people from the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns became death traps for women and girls.
In South Africa for example, one in every five women became a victim of gender based violence since the beginning of COVID-19. Thus the rise in gender based violence and killing of women can be regarded as a pandemic within a pandemic.
They COVID-19 pandemic also resulted in companies closing down thus increasing unemployment. Some of those who lost jobs turned to crime and drug abuse, with women and girls becoming targets of muggings and other social ills.
Thus the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented rise in murder cases and abuse of women.
All the problems faced by women during the COVID-19 era can be attributed to lack of proper laws that protect women and girls against gender based violence. The existing laws are not punitive enough to discourage would be abusers against attacking women and this needs to be corrected.
Thus there is need for stronger legislation against abusers in order to win the fight against gender based violence against women. If Africa stands together, the fight against gender based violence will be won.