South Africa battles another deadly epidemic of domestic violence amid coronavirus lockdown - GulfToday

South Africa battles another deadly epidemic of domestic violence amid coronavirus lockdown


Public sector workers shout slogans as they hold banners during a protest in Pretoria.

South African hairdresser Sandy feared for her life when a five-week coronavirus lockdown trapped her indoors with her abusive husband.


"He has threatened to break my business and destroy me," said the 42-year-old, who did not wish to use her real name.


More than 120,000 victims rang the national helpline for abused women and children in the first three weeks after the lockdown started on March 27 -- double the usual volume of calls.


"The country battles another deadly epidemic of gender-based violence," the Daily Maverick newspaper warned last month as it became clear the virus had hit South Africa hard.


At least 4,996 coronavirus cases have been recorded so far -- the highest in Africa -- including 93 deaths.


South Africa had been grappling with the scourge of violence against women long before the coronavirus lockdown was imposed.


viol1 South Africa had been grappling with the scourge of violence against women long before the coronavirus lockdown.


A woman is killed every three hours in South Africa, according to police statistics -- a rate five times the world average. Half are murdered by men with whom they had a close relationship.


Official statistics suggest that more than 110 rapes are reported to the police per day.


Stay-at-home measures have only made things worse for women stuck in abusive relationships.


Fear of reprisal


President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned the surge in domestic violence "during a time of such difficulty for our country".


"It is disturbing that... women and girls are being terrorised inside their own homes, forcing them to make desperate calls for help," Ramaphosa said in a emailed weekly note.


The anti-sexual violence TEARS Foundation received 30 percent more text messages and calls over the past month, said its founder Mara Glennie, a GBV assault survivor.


'Suffer in silence'


Victims who are able to break free would still be unable to travel far due to lockdown restrictions.



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Glennie explained that they would first need to apply for a permit in court, adding another layer of complication.


The nature of the lockdown has made us suffer in silence," women's rights militant Brenda Madumise-Pajibo told AFP.


Cronje noted victims did not immediately reach out to Safe House once the lockdown started.


Safe House has since been struggling to find enough shelters and the national helpline is overwhelmed with calls.




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