Government needs to support Vulnerable Groups during COVID-19 Lockdown
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”. When society disregards the rights of its vulnerable people, particularly during catastrophes such as COVID-19, instability and conflict usually prevail. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the South African government must continue to respect the rights and dignity of all its citizens, including vulnerable people. Apart from the children, the elderly, the disabled and the poor, vulnerable people also include marginalised and stigmatised groups such as LGBTQ+, people living with HIV/AIDS, sex workers and the unemployed youth among others. These people are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
The response to COVID-19 has drawn resources away from other public health priorities, including resources such as time, personnel and finance. Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) has also suffered as a result of diversion of resources. As COVID-19 becomes the epicentre of everything, SRHR has been sacrificed at the altar of fighting COVID-19. The first casualties are the vulnerable and the poor people who have no alternative access to SRH services except through public health facilities. As a result of shifting resources away from SRHR, the rights of young women and girls to access sexual and reproductive health services such as menstrual health, family planning and maternal health have been compromised. With the reported rise in sexual violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that there will be an upsurge in unwanted teenage pregnancies.
The Siyakwazi Youth Network calls upon the authorities not to deprioritise the SRH services on account of the COVID-19 response. This will reverse the gains made over the years on population development. We have noted with sadness and concern the increase in sexual violence directed at women and children during the lockdown period of COVID-19. We urge government to apply the full might of the law and punish the perpetrators of sexual violence on women, young women and children. We also wish to call upon government to provide sanitary towels to young women and girls and thereby protecting the dignity of the young people even during the COVID-19 crisis. Government must continue to provide quality contraceptives and double the effort to provide reliable condoms to young people.
Partners in Sexual Health encourages members of the Siyakwazi Youth Network to do their own research and write about SRHR and other social issues affecting them in their daily lives. However, the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the blogs belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to Partners in Sexual Health, Siyakwazi Youth Network or any of its partner organisations.