Impact of COVID-19 lockdown and link to women and children's experiences of violence in the home in South Africa

This article was originally published here

BMC Public Health. 2022 May 21;22(1):1029. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-13422-3.


BACKGROUND: Evidence on the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown remains at an early stage. There is limited research about the impact of hard lockdown restrictions on families, specifically how these restrictions impact on women and children’s experiences of domestic violence, including intimate partner violence (IPV) and child abuse in South Africa. We conducted research among men and women in Gauteng province, South Africa to understand their experiences of the COVID-19 national lockdown and its impact and link to women and children’s experiences of domestic violence.

METHODS: We conducted a qualitative study, using social media to recruit men and women who were 18 years and older, living with a spouse and/or children in Gauteng province, South Africa during the lockdown. To collect the data, we conducted telephone interviews, and analyzed data using the thematic approach.

RESULTS: The lockdown had unprecedented negative economic impacts on families, and exacerbated some of the risk factors for violence against women and children in the home in South Africa. Some women reported experiences of emotional violence. Experiences of physical violence were mostly amongst children. The risk factors for women and children’s experiences of violence in the home differed by socio-economic class. Job losses and reduction in earnings resulted to food insecurity which was a key driver of violence in most low socio-economic status (SES) families. Confinement in the home with spouses was an unfamiliar and difficult experience, associated with conflict and perpetration of violence by men in high SES families. Participants across socio-economic groups reported high levels of stress with limited psychosocial support available during the lockdown.

CONCLUSIONS: Our finding showing a link between low-socio-economic status and increased risk for domestic violence during the lockdown in South Africa suggests the need for socio-economic interventions to mitigate these risks. Structural and social relief measures need to be strengthened to reduce the loss of jobs and income and to address food insecurity during pandemics. Psychosocial support should be provided to men and women to mitigate the mental health impacts of the pandemics and lockdown.

PMID:35597933 | DOI:10.1186/s12889-022-13422-3