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Gender-based violence cases rise during lockdown: Phamotse

  • girls, women bear brunt of abuse during lockdown, minister says

Nthatuoa Koeshe

LESOTHO has registered a significant increase in the number of gender-based violence cases since the start of three weeks’ lockdown compelling people to stay at home as part of measures to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This according to Gender, Youths, Sports and Recreation Minister Mahali Phamotse who said 19 cases of rape had been reported since the lockdown began on 30 March 2020. Dr Phamotse said the rape victims were females aged from five and 55 years.

Due to the lockdown which is expected to end on 21 April 2020, people are expected to stay in their homes and only venture out to buy groceries, attend burials or seek medical attention. Businesses have been closed except for those offering essential services such as healthcare facilities, fuel service stations, grocery shops and media organisations.

Dr Phamotse told this publication that the lockdown had significantly increased chances of women and children falling prey to their abuse as they were now stuck with potential abusers, mostly male relatives, for the whole day at home.

“Cases reported at Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) show that 19 females from the age of 5 to 55 were raped in these past few weeks. A six-year-old boy was also molested,” Dr Phamotse said, adding the numbers could be higher as many cases of rape and gender-based violence went unreported.

“These numbers could be higher because not everyone reports when abused even though they are advised to do so.”

Dr Phamotse said in the last quarter of 2019, 15 cases of gender-based violence were reported and five of these were rape cases and another three were of minors who were subjected to various forms of emotional abuse.

“We understand that during this period of the lockdown the number of cases of abuse are likely to shoot up. But it is our responsibility as the ministry to combat abuse in its entirety so that Lesotho can be free of gender-based violence,” Dr Phamotse said.

She urged Basotho to use the Nokaneng App — an internet application designed to teach women about their rights, and services available for gender-based violence victims, survivors and caregivers.

She also pleaded with Basotho to join the fight against abuse and report all cases to the relevant authorities. Meanwhile, She-Hive Association said four individuals have reported cases of abuse to the association.

She-Hive Association is a women-led non-governmental organisation which strives to empower survivors of violence against women and children.

She-Hive Association’s Executive Director, ‘Mamakhethe Phomane recently told the Sunday Express that the four cases, which included children abused by their caretakers, were reported to the police.

“We received one case from Thaba-Tseka and three from Maseru. All these cases were reported to the police and are being taken care of,” Ms Phomane said.

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