UNICEF, SADC call for improved legislation, policies to end GBV 

TANZANIA: THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have called on the regional bloc member states to improve legislation, policies, budgets and accountability to protect women and children against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

According to them, data reveals that about 17 per cent of girls and women in Southern Africa have experienced forced sex in their lifetime, while 28 per cent of women in Tanzania have experienced sexual abuse during childhood.

In the report, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Ms Etleva Kadilli, said the root causes of violence against children and women are grounded in power imbalances.

“Abuse of power occurs along the dimensions of both age and gender. Poverty, unemployment, weak legal frameworks, armed conflict and humanitarian crises also exacerbate this high prevalence of violence throughout Southern African countries.

Violence against women and children is often normalised and, in many cases, becomes intergenerational. We must break this vicious cycle of violence,” she said.

For his part, the SADC Executive Secretary, Mr Elias Magosi, noted that it is unacceptable that millions of girls, boys, and women are still being held back, injured, or killed by violent perpetrators.

“Violence and abuse against children and women are harmful to society’s development and for this reason we have prioritised the prevention of gender-based violence as a key intervention in our SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan for 2022-2030,” he said.

He added, “We are also intensifying our implementation of the SADC Regional Strategy and Framework of Action for Addressing Gender-Based Violence Strategy to operationalise the GBV provisions in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.”

The report further highlighted that violence against children has both immediate and long-term effects, not just on the individual survivor but on society as a whole.

Thus, immediate physical effects include death, injury, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies, which can in turn lead to longer-term physical effects such as PTSD or high blood pressure. Mental health impacts often include depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts.

These physical impacts also directly reduce educational outcomes. Children who have experienced violence have been found to perform worse than children who have not on verbal, memory, attention, language, mathematics and IQ tests.

Adults with a history of physical or sexual abuse as children were found to have lower levels of education, employment and earnings than their peers. They are more likely to engage in risky behaviours such as excessive drinking, drug use, or minimising condom use.

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