Commercial sex among females and domestic violence against men drastically increased during the Covid-19 lockdown, especially among slum dwellers, facilitated by the untimely and mass loss of jobs by numerous members of the public, a study has revealed.
Titled ‘Adherence, Lived Experiences and Resilient Transformation among “slum dwellers” (ALERTs)’ in COVID-19, the study was conducted in two slum communities within the Kampala Metropolitan Area; Kataba-Kabalagala and Ki-Mombasa in Bwaise.
Conducted by researchers from Makerere University, Department of Social Work in collaboration with Gulu University, the study findings indicate that with the increase of commercial sex among women, violence against their male partners was inevitable.
During the dissemination of the study findings at Makerere University, Dr Gloria Seruwagi, the Principle Investigator of the study said that most of the women, through commercial sex, became the breadwinners in their households after many men lost their jobs.
“Considering the fact that a lot of people have lost their jobs, it is now the women who are involved in commercial sex work that have retained the ability to bring money to feed the family. Some of these women are married and their partners can’t stand this job idea so there are fights on a daily basis,” Seruwagi said.
“There is rivalry between the wife sleeping with different men to bring money yet the husband is unemployed and the family needs to survive. The men said that they could not come out to report, however much they were suffering,” she added.
According to Hilda Namakula, a co investigator of the study, the endless fights between parents have triggered irrational physical abuse towards their children.
“Women are beating up men and the reverse is true, as a way of copying up with the stress brought about by covid-19. Also, children are being beaten. In a way of a parent relieving stress, they hit the children over small issues,” she explained.
She also re-echoed that men were found to be victims of violence who suffered in silence “because society expects them to be strong.”
“Actually, we found that more men are facing more violence than women. Women are beating up men, and men can’t come out because women have become the breadwinners in the households. They are using their bodies to make money that is feeding the family. So, the men fear that when they report to police, they will be laughed at,” Namakula explained.
Other key findings in the report indicate that COVID-19 has increased levels of violence, including violence against children. It has also significantly contributed to increased cases of defilement, early marriages, teenage pregnancy and pimping children for transactional sex.
Researchers, therefore, recommended that multi-sectoral and tailored approaches be adopted to address COVID-19 effects, including violence against children, men and women.
The ALERTs Study is funded by Government of Uganda through Makerere University Research Innovation Fund (MakRIF)