GBV (Gender Based Violence) is a big problem facing different people all over the world. GBV in simple terms refers to any harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. With that said, it’s important to understand that anyone can be a victim of this kind of violence. Forms in which GBV manifests include; sexual, physical, mental and economic forms. It can also be inflicted through threats of violence, coercion and manipulation and many other ways as long as they inflict harm. Women and girls are already the biggest victims of GBV but women and girls with disabilities are estimated to suffer 10 times more compared to women and girls without disabilities. This is mostly attributed to the attitudes that people have on disabled people perceiving them as helpless among other things.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected people all over the world in different ways. It has put businesses to a standstill, led to loss of jobs and generally affected people’s livelihoods and standards of living at large. With people like women and girls with disabilities who were already at a disadvantage because of different constraints, it has hit them even harder. The biggest challenges that have come with the Covid-19 pandemic for women and girls with disabilities are lack of financial support and violence against them going unreported.
The biggest indicator for lack of financial support particularly in Uganda is the current criteria for the distribution of “Covid money”. This is generally money given out to people that the government considers as vulnerable because of the imposed lockdown. The government in this lockdown is targeting people who used to earn daily but are now tied to their homes because of the pandemic particularly in cities and municipalities. As much as it as a good initiative, it has left out very crucial groups of people who did not even have livelihoods in the first place. Groups like women and girls with disabilities who are striving to make it in a very unequal setting. These are people who have been discriminated from the time they were born and now according to the governments’ criteria, they don’t fall in the vulnerable group as well.
Another challenge arising from this lockdown is violence against these women and children dealing with disabilities going unreported. One of the biggest contributors to this challenge is the very questionable belief that disabled people are asexual which basically means they do not or cannot get involved in sexual activity. This has made them very easy targets by perpetrators who are aware of the fact that no one will believe them when they do report. Reporting is also a lucky occurrence because of the current lockdown. They are tied to one place and have no means to reporting centers when they do decide to take action.
These challenges have exposed these women and children with disabilities to even more GBV as they try to find means of survival. Therefore women and children with disabilities need even more support and attention now than ever before because for the rest of the world it just got tough, and in their world it’s always been tough.
AINEMBABAZI SHARON JEAN