Child brides at high risk of experiencing GBV
By Marvelous M. Mpofu
Sandra Ndlovu a seventeen year old young girl from Pumula South faced severe abuse from her husband in March 2020 during the lockdown period induced by COVID-19.
On the 16th of March 2020 Sandra got into a heated argument with her husband because the husband had seen her talking to a male neighbor and the conflict resulted in her husband physically beating her.
“I do not know which part of our conversation angered him the most, he followed me to the kitchen when l went to check on the meal that I was cooking and he started punching me,” says Sandra.
Sandra is one of the many woman and girls who faced different types of Gender Based Violence during the COVID-19 period.
Globally, 1 in 3 women have been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way — usually by someone they know.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) refers to harm that is directed to an individual based on their gender. There are a number of types of GBV including forced marriages, psychological violence, sexual violence, physical violence among others.
This means Sandra suffered from forced marriage GBV because she was married off whilst still seventeen years old.
One of the causes of GBV is norms that give men control over women behavior like a women having to submit to her husband all the time. This makes them vulnerable to dominance which leads to abuse.
At a community level, poverty has worsened GBV especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The COVID-19 lockdowns restricted people from moving to different places even work, hence many people lost their incomes. School going pupils like Sandra ended up failing to go to school and they were married off because parents wanted to curb poverty.
Abuse of alcohol and drugs can also lead to someone being predisposed to abusing others as it becomes harder to control themselves.
The effects of GBV vary with some being that GBV threatens family structures. In the case of Sandra, GBV might have led to more conflict between her and her parents as she is still unhappy about being married off at a young age.
GBV impacts in depriving people of their human rights like freedom from violence. If this right is impeached, it means a person’s dignity, sense of worth and self esteem has been undermined.
GBV also affects mental health of victims besides physically suffering injuries. Mental health challenges may lead to isolation and depression.
Another impact of GBV is that victims of it will be pushed to the periphery of the society making them feel helpless and inferior to the opposite gender. This is shown through discrimination hence some victims avoid talking about their abuses. Sandra is also not her real name as she spoke in anonymity due to fearing stereotypes.
Economic costs also come out as an impact of GBV as victims will suffer financially due to lack of support from close family and friends who may be protecting the perpetrator. Once victims expose the abuser, they may often find themselves homeless hence they will need money for their upkeep which becomes a challenge. Exposing the abuser can also expose the victim to more harm.
Prevention strategies of GBV according to Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) say that there is a need for change of focus from seeing women as victims to seeing them as survivors and agents of change with a strong focus on women and girls’ empowering and agency.
Another of Sida’s suggestion is that efforts must be increased in ensuring that women participate in politics. This will help them gain opportunities and thereby earn something so that they are not financially vulnerable to their abusers.