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Prevention & response to gender-based violence (GBV) during novel COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda

17th March 2021

Author: Madinah Nabukeera (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kyambogo University, Kampala, Uganda)

As Covid-19 spread around the world, countries attempted to control the outbreak by employing lockdowns and quarantine polices.  Although stay at home orders were necessary for protecting people from the virus, it unintentionally brought out greater dangers and deadly risks like Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Domestic Violence (DV). For many girls and women danger emerged in the place where many assume it would be safe – within the home.  

Stay at home orders were implemented three times in Uganda, increasing widespread GBV with perpetrators going unnoticed and unpunished in the country. Police reports, health centers, toll free helplines, and recovery shelters help to provide a general insight into the scale of the issue, but they don’t give the whole story; there is a cultural stigma and fear of revenge around reporting cases of GBV since these are thought to be a private matter. In Uganda 22% of women experienced sexual violence during lockdown; GBV cases increased to 3,280 with only 1,148 reported to police (Abet, 2020; Emorut, 2020).

Close to 3.3 million Ugandans are exposed to adult domestic violence each year, but with the government committed to only treating Covid-19 pandemic patients, these victims are left unattended exposed to danger. Many young girls have come out of school and very poor, were therefore forced to marry against their wishes.

The politics in the country that focused on averting the spread of Covid-19 combined with related stay at home measures deepened GBV since majority of women are employed in the agricultural sector as well as the informal sector. This coupled with physical and social isolation, income disturbances and challenges of free movement worsened the speed at which the government systems responded to GBV cases and victims. As much as the government of Uganda performed well in controlling the pandemic in the first three months of the lockdown, GBV and DV were not a priority; the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development was not allocated funds to manage GBV victims during Covid-19, with the result that GBV and DV killed Ugandans before Covid-19 did.

In Uganda government neglected GBV since around the same time the country was undergoing preparations for elections. The government claimed lack of funds and the only supplementary budgets that were passed by parliament were in education, health and security. The priorities of the government at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic were clearly politically motivated, rather than focused on the wellbeing of women. This resulted in the death and injury of many girls and women who suffered sustained emotional and physical abuse at the hands of their husbands and relatives. The pandemic has also had the effect of widening the economic inequalities between men and women, as the majority of women have used up their capital to look after their families, and therefore cannot return to work, hence perpetuating a vicious cycle of poverty.

Women have long been classed as second class citizens It will take time for men appreciate that women and girls have the same rights as men, and to appreciate the International Conventions ratified by Uganda to uphold the rights of women.1

Article: Prevention and response to gender-based violence (GBV) during novel Covid-19 lock-down in Uganda
Journal: The Journal of Adult Protection
Author: Madinah Nabukeera (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kyambogo University, Kampala, Uganda)


Abet, T. (2020). Covid-19: Fathers cited in violence against children, retrieved, June, 2020.
Emorut, F. (2020). Women church leaders decry rising cases of GBV, retrieved, June, 2020.


1Conventions on the Rights of the Children 1989, Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979, Convention Against Torture and other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment 1984 accession, Abolition of Forced Labour Convention 1957 (No.105), ILO Convention on Worst Forms of Child Labour , 1999(No.182), Equal remuneration Convention No.100, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention No 111, UNESCO Convention on Safe Guarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2003, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006, Beijing platform for Action 1995, The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights 1981, The African Union Heads of State Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality, 2004, The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol, 2003)