Both genders affected as tensions rise
Incidents of domestic Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Botswana soared during the past two months of lockdown, Women Against Rape (WAR) – a Non-Government Organisation based in Maun – has revealed.
The scourge was not restricted to women either.
A record number of men left home to seek temporary accommodation at shelters traditionally used to house women and children who fled or were removed from a violent home environment.
Speaking to Okavango Voice this week, social workers at WAR revealed that since the country went into lockdown on April 3, the centre has been inundated with calls for help from men, women and children experiencing some forms of abuse at home.
“Lockdown was a test of character of our people, where people got to be understood for who they really are. With the financial stress and having to be confined at home, there was a lot of anger and other issues arose and many reached breaking points.
“Before lockdown, these people were too busy with work, entertainment, booze and other activities and they did not get to spend so much time at home and with their families,” explained Baleseng James, a WAR social worker who oversees the organisation’s psycho-social support including the shelter where survivors of GBV are temporarily housed.
According to James, in April alone WAR received 79 cases of GBV, including physical violence, emotional, economic, sexual forms of violence among others.
Of these incidents, 31 involved men as the complainants.
For the first two weeks of May, 20 cases were recorded, of which seven affected men and 13 women.
Putting the numbers into context, although he did not have the exact figures, James revealed that before lockdown they would on average receive a handful of cases a month.
“Most of the cases were between intimate partners; boyfriend or girlfriend cheating on each other. In some of the cases the two had agreed to stay together during lockdown and in the middle of lockdown the other would kick their partner out,” he said.
“Getting a travel permit to move from one town to the next was not easy during the lockdown and even if you could get one, public transport was not available. It was mostly because of this that men ended up seeking shelter from WAR,” continued the social worker.
The development marks a striking difference as in the past WAR provided shelter exclusively for women and children seeking protection from abusive home environments.
“Our shelter was filled up. We even had to get an extra shelter to absorb more people in need of our support,” added another WAR social worker, Gontle Samakabadi.
She explained that one business owner in Maun offered shelter to GBV survivors during the lockdown period, which is where they accommodated the men.
Lockdown was necessitated by the killer virus, Covid-19, which has since claimed over 350, 000 lives the world over with United States of America suffering the most number of deaths at over 100, 191 as of Wednesday afternoon.