COVID-19 lockdown: Domestic violence cases may rise, activists warn

A coalition of women’s rights activists, including 283 organisations, has urged the Federal Government to address the impending surge in cases of sexual and gender-based violence that may result from the coronavirus lockdown.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had, on March 29, ordered a lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory for an initial period of 14 days, while some other states have taken similar action.

The activists made the plea in a joint statement co-signed by the Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi; Secretary General, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, Saudatu Mahdi; and the Country Director, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Dr Joy Onyesoh.

The statement read in part, “While the ‘stay-at-home’ order serves to protect families from the disease, it has the tendency to worsen sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls.

“Experience from other countries, like China, shows a corresponding rise in the number of women reporting increased incidences of domestic violence. Tensions arising from the economic impact of the lockdown such as reduced income and financial difficulties are contributing to this surge.

“The President acknowledged that the restrictions will impose hardship on Nigerians but emphasised that the pandemic is a matter of life and death. In some instances, sexual and gender-based violence is a matter of life and death in Nigeria.”

According to the activists, reports and anecdotal evidence from the work of many of the undersigned groups affirm the assertion.

They said pre-existing economic hardships, where an estimated 91 million citizens live below the global daily survival benchmark, was already bad enough.

“We, therefore, call on Nigeria’s federal and state governments to ensure respect of women’s human rights and protection from gender-based violence within the context of the lockdown in FCT; Lagos and Ogun States, as well as other states in total or partial lockdown,” the coalition concluded.

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