The covid-19 pandemic has not only claimed the lives of nearly 1.6 million people across the globe, but also increased gender-based violence and femicide statistics in some countries by as much as five times.
S’dumo Dlamini, the deputy minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, said at least 48 countries were forced to also include prevention strategies to curb violence against women and girls into their covid-19 response plans.
“(A further) 121 countries have adopted measures to strengthen services for women and survivors of violence in the covid crisis,” Dlamini said during the unveiling of a wall of remembrance at Agriculture Place in Arcadia, Pretoria, the head office of the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development.
These crimes are reportedly often inflicted by intimate partners. “That means the restricted movement, social isolation, and financial insecurity (caused by covid-19 regulations) are increasing women’s vulnerability to violence in the world. As if this is not enough, the research also shows that 137 women are killed by a member of their family every day.”
Dlamini added, “It is estimated that of the 87 000 women who were intentionally killed globally in 2017, about 50 000 were killed by their intimate partners or family members.”
More needs to be done to prioritise addressing violence against women in covid-19 response and recovery efforts.
The deputy minister urged men in South Africa to do everything in their power to ensure the safety of women. “Men have a responsibility to fight this violence against women. That is not an accusation to men present here or not present here that they are guilty of that. But even if you feel as man that you are not violating the rights of women you have a responsibility of fighting the victimisation of women.”
Men have a duty to defend and support women, Dlamini said.
“Thomas Sankara, the late president of Berkino Faso, was more direct when he said a women’s fate is bound up with that of the exploited male. An exploited male has the potential to exploit their partner. Sankara said that is a fact, however, the solidarity arising from the exploitation that both men and women suffer and that binds them together historically, must not cause us to lose sight of the specific reality of the women’s situation.”
Deceased agricultural officials remembered
Meanwhile the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, honoured the memory of 12 government officials in her department who lost their lives due to covid-19.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony Didiza expressed her condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the deceased officials.
“They have lived among us. They made their contribution in service of our country so that our lives can be better. These were family members who worked each day to make the lives of those who they loved to be better. It is their families whom we owe the greatest gratitude for they shared their home with us and the country. They were cherished and loved.”
The minister reiterated that covid-19 disrupted the economy and livelihoods. “None of us would have known that this year, 2020, our world of work would have changed in the manner that it did. Each one of us knows a family member, a friend or a neighbour who has been sick as a result of covid-19. We also know someone who has succumbed to death as a result of covid-19, but we also know someone who is a survivor of covid-19.”