Zim records increase in psychological violence  

Sindiso Mhlophe

THE United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has revealed that psychological abuse ranks high among cases of gender-based violence (GBV) recorded in the country since the beginning of the coronavirus (Covid-19) national lockdown.

Psychological abuse, also referred to as emotional abuse, is characterised by a person subjecting or exposing another person to behaviour that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
In its latest report, the OCHA indicated that risks of GBV continue to intensify in Zimbabwe as the population is exposed to degenerating food insecurity, compounded by economic hardship and the Covid-19 movement restriction measures.
“The national GBV Hotline (Musasa) has recorded a total of
4 302 GBV calls from the beginning of the lockdown on March 30, until July 15, 1 312 in April, 915 in May 2020, 776 in June, 753 in July, and 570 from August 1 to 26, with an overall average increase of over 60 percent compared to the pre-lockdown trends.
“An increase in psychological violence was recorded with 55 percent of total cases as compared with previous months.
“Other dominant forms remain physical violence with 22 percent of total cases, followed by economic violence with 15 percent and sexual violence 8 percent. About 90 percent of cases are intimate partner violence,” the OCHA said.
The humanitarian office further said that despite GBV services being recognised as essential within the new lockdown phase, GBV survivors were still facing movement restrictions in some districts where there were reports of harassment at roadblocks and requests for unnecessary passes for survivors.


“The need for continuous sensitisation of security personnel deployed at roadblocks on freedom of movement of GBV staff and survivors remains critical. Reduced public transport availability remains a challenge in urban, peri-urban and rural areas for survivors of GBV to access timely multi-sectoral services.
“In most impoverished areas, de-prioritisation of GBV services is increasingly recorded as a consequence of the protracted lockdown, as access to daily income sources for household sustenance remains constrained,” OCHA said.
“Service providers have reported an increase in the number of GBV cases against adolescent girls, as well as exposure to increased negative coping mechanisms, such as child marriage, as one of the indirect consequences of the protracted closure of schools compounded by economic hardship and household income reduction.
“An increase in teenage pregnancies is also often identified among the consequences,” the humanitarian office added.
The OCHA further revealed that some GBV partners had reported increasing requests at roadblocks for Covid-19 negative testing proof as a prerequisite to allow mobility of service providers, further derailing service provision during the national lockdown.
“The legal sector is constrained in some districts. For example, in the Kotwa and Mudzi districts there is no resident magistrate and legal services are only available once a month.
“The closest alternative centre for rape cases legal assistance is the regional court in Murehwa, which is 130km from the growth point and further away for rural residents.
“These challenges generate delays in cases management and discourage some survivors to report, as well as witnesses to support survivors of rape,” OCHA said.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Zimbabwe’s Health Demographic Survey indicated that more than 35 percent of married women aged 15-49 experience spousal violence committed by their husband or partner while one in three girls is married off before she turns 18, often to older men.

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