THE Non-governmental Gender Organisations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) has expressed concern over the escalating cases of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) as the country is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the council has called for the immediate arrest of a health practitioner who raped a SGBV survivor at a named facility in Lusaka.

In a statement, Thursday, NGOCC board chairperson Mary Mulenga noted that three women had been killed by their spouses during the last few weeks.

“The Non-governmental Gender Organisations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) is deeply concerned with the escalating cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) reported in the last few weeks when the country and the world at large has been grappling with the Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic. NGOCC is particularly perturbed with the three cases of women that have been slain in cold blood by their spouses. According to the Zambia Police, a 32-year old man of Mtendere compound in Lusaka, Crispin Kawanga, is reported to have murdered his 16-year old girlfriend, while another man of Maamba murdered his wife after stabbing her,” Mulenga stated.

She added that the surge could be attributed to the economic and social stress that had been brought by restrictions on movements in most countries, as observed by the United Nations.

“Whether or not the advent of COVID-19 in Zambia, and/or the measures that have been put in place to address the same have led to the gruesome SGBV cases mentioned above, it is clear that Zambia is recording a surge in the number of SGBV cases in the wake of COVID-19. The combination of economic and social stresses brought by the pandemic, as well as restrictions on movements, have dramatically increased the number of women and girls facing abuse in almost all countries, according to the United Nations,” she noted.

She stated that people should use this time of isolation to consolidate family ties rather than resorting to violence.

“This is the time when families need to be sober and help the nation if the fight against COVID-19 is to be won. The proposed measure for people to stay at home should not be a cause for SGBV but a time to consolidate family ties. It is therefore, disheartening that instead of spreading love within the family, people are resorting to violence. NGOCC is appealing to all Zambians to be each other’s keeper and ensure that we all report any cases of SGBV or indeed any suspicious incidences to law enforcement authorities. It is our expectation that government will leave no stone unturned in ensuring the safety of women and children as the country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Mulenga.