Violence against women is a human rights violation that takes place every single day around the world. Globally, one in three women experiences physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. While domestic violence and abuse are sometimes hidden, if we know the signs of an abusive relationship, we may be able to recognize it better and seek or offer help. During the Covid-19 lockdown in Sierra Leone, women experience secret sexual and domestic violence, which 80 to 90 percent came from directly their immediate partners. CASD-SL engaged numbers of women and men to underscore some of the underlying factors certain that led to the increase in GBV cases during the lockdown

Here is our findings.

The objective of this study is to provide reliable quantitative and qualitative information that CASDSL and her partners to develop strategies and interventions aimed at fighting against Gender-based Violence in COVID19 in Gboubu Community. At the global level, studies have demonstrated that gender-based violence is perpetrated by husbands or male partners and that these husbands/partners or former partners force between 12% and 25% of women to have sexual intercourse with them (WHO 2002). These incidents are still being reported in spite of the fact that the United Nations General Assembly voted against this in 1979, the existence of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women that makes reference to the inalienable rights of women. This research seeks not only to measure the frequency of incidents of sexual gender-based violence experienced by women in Gboubu Community during the lockdown, in their various life situations but also to analyse the perceptions that the community has about the nature, causes and consequences of these incidents of violence. It is against this backdrop that a baseline survey that is more of qualitative has been undertaken to measure the magnitude of the phenomenon of sexual gender-based violence and to determine its underlying causes and consequences. The study was carried out in the Gboubu Community, Bo districts. Nearly 300 individuals from the households in the sample responded to the household and 2 Focus Group Discussions were carried out. Interviews with 3 key informants were also conducted.

The data analysis reveals that the attempt to force a woman to have sexual intercourse and forced sexual intercourse were considered to be the most serious forms of violence by the majority of the survivors during the lockdown (11%) of acts of violence perpetrated in the public domain, that 6% of the respondents had been insulted/sworn at by their husbands/spouses and that for 10% of the respondents, their husbands/spouses had used force to induce them to engage in sexual intercourse.

In general terms, the violent acts and attacks experienced by the respondents are clearly more pronounced within the marital union compared to other life environments (in public, family environment and the neighbourhood). How can one explain this state of affairs? Women in underserved communities in Bo District do not know their rights and are therefore unable to institute legal proceedings as they are also loath to expose their family secrets; compared to men, they have a more limited access to the economic resources that would enable them to demand justice in cases of sexual violence. In order to fight against this scourge, capacity building in terms of prevention and eradication of gender-based violence in all the sections of the social, medical, legal and police departments must be emphasised, as they are all involved either directly or indirectly with the women who become victims of gender-based violence.

1.0 Research organization and its approach

Community Action for Sustainable Development Sierra Leone ( CASDSL) is a community based an independent non-governmental organization that promotes and protects women and children’s rights at local community level.CASDSL is represented in over five local communities district-wide through its local associated members across Bo District, the Southern Part of Sierra Leone. As community-Based Organization ( CBO), CASDSL community volunteer is united in its commitment to working for justice for women and girls, protecting  defending and advocating for the human rights of women and girls affected by GBV, trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse . CASDSL develops and implements programme in response to the needs of victims of GBV, sexual exploitation trafficking, domestic violence and abuse among women and girls.

The report is done by community Action for Sustainable Development Sierra Leone, it is based upon the quick participatory survey around Domestic and gender based violence against women during the COVID-19 lockdown. Participatory survey was conducted in Gboubu Community, a mall community located off Kebbie-tow,in the southern part of Sierra Leone. The population of this community is about 1,500 people with 38% of women,27% of men, 18% of girls and 17% of boys (CASDSSL 2020). As male Euphemistic community, women and girls in Gboubu   community continue to experience gender based violence throughout before and during the sit at home period, which according to them, requires interventions to restore their dignities.Eventhpugh the lockdowns have been one of the globally supported measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on public health. What this means for many women and girls in Sierra Leone? According to survey report, conducted by CASDSL, indicates that women are trapped at home with abusive spouses, partners and family members with limited access to support services.

2. 0 Objective of the research:

The overall objective of the study is to provide relevant quantitative and qualitative data from which CASDSL and her partners will prepare strategies and actions to fight against gender-based violence in Gboubu Community, Bo District during and after the COVID19.

2.1 Specific objectives

  • To outline the various types of interpersonal violence inflicted on women in their various life, environments ( family, public space) ,whoever the violence perpetuator might be during the COVID 19 at stay at home
  • To measure the rate of the GBV suffered by women during the COVID19 in their environments
  • To find out local community recommendation for the control of GBV against women.
  • To under study women’s reaction in relation to violence suffered, the manner in which they resort to their neighbours.

3.0  Survey method and target respondents:

Gboubu community is divided into three smaller sections namely the old new and faala sections, each section is represented by head or ‘’Kurloko mehei’’ ( Meaning section head in Mende Language). These Kurloko mehei directly accountable to the village head. Communication to subjects flow from the village heads to the Kurloko mehei, down to the entire village. To gather a generalized views from women on GBV in COVID19, the research team selected 25 women between the ages 18-35 in each of the sections as representative samples. Both participatory survey and interviews methods were used to record the views on women on GBV and other abuse against women and girls in this community.

4.0 Research findings and recommendation

Out of 75 women contacted during this search, 55 ( 73%) agreed that COVID-19 has impacted their lives through increase in domestic and gender-based violence and abuse by their husband during the lockdown .Among the violence highlighted by the respondents,  physical, Sexual and emotional/psychosocial  are the highest cases experienced my women while been trapped by COVID-19 in their homes. According to one of the respodents, she experienced  twice of gender –based violence from her husband during the stay at home  more than ever.( ‘’ my husband doesn’t feed me and my children, I have five children who used to harass me for food, anytime I ask him, he  sets fire on me by beating me in front of my kids. Also, with my empty stomach, he forces to have sex with me any hour he feels, which is seriously affecting me’’.

 ‘’,I live in this Gboubu community. My husband died during Ebola and left me with four children. Two years back, my late husband’s brother met my family and proposed to marry me, My father accepted. Since then, he has not been feeding me and my children but forcefully has sex with me even when I am sick’’. The interviewers interviewed one of the GBV perpetrators and this was his views. ‘’I am a husband and head of the family. I am a carpenter by the professor. I used to feed my house before but currently, my customers who used to award me smaller contracts are not giving me again due to COVID-19.I have nowhere to borrow money, my wife attacks me always to feed the family. The only way I sometimes free myself is by heating her with some blows’’ or abandoned the house for some time as a response to anger.