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African women face two pandemics

20 104 155
01.08.2020

In the last few months, as the coronavirus has spread across the world, African countries have registered a surge in cases of domestic violence and sexual violence, which has provoked public outrage.

In May, South Sudanese activists protested the gang rape of an eight-year-old girl by three men while holding her mother at gunpoint, in the capital, Juba. The online campaign #SouthSudaneseSurvivor prompted women to share their harrowing experiences to break the silence on sexual abuse and rape culture in their communities both in the country and the diaspora.

Around the same time, in one of his national COVID-19 addresses, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa decried that "the scourge of gender-based violence continues to stalk our country as the men of our country declared war on the women." Calls to the government-run GBV and femicide command centre had reportedly doubled during the nationwide lockdown.

In early June, Nigerians started the #WeAreTired campaign after two young women, Vera Uwaila Omosuwa, a 22-year-old microbiology student, and 18-year-old Barakat Bello were raped and killed five days apart. Following the online campaign and nationwide protests by women's rights activists, all 36 Nigerian governors agreed to declare a state of emergency over gender-based violence against women and children. In the same month, Nigerian Popstar D'banj faced allegations of rape and abduction.

In late June, campaigners in Sierra Leone protested the rape and killing of a five-year-old girl, Kadijah Saccoh. In July, Liberian human rights activists called on President George Weah to announce policy responses to the alarming increase in rape.

In Machakos County in Kenya, 3,964 girls became pregnant in five month period to June, , as children stayed at home due to COVID-19 closures. Similar grim trends have been registered in neighbouring Uganda. Most of these cases are a result of statutory rape. The majority of cases of sexual violence are perpetrated by people known to the children, proof that home is hardly a safe place.

African countries are not unique in this pattern of increased gender-based violence during the pandemic. The UN has warned of a "shadow pandemic", as countries across the world have reported a spike in domestic violence. The reality, however, is that violence against women and girls is hardly a........

© Al Jazeera