What is the link between COVID-19 lockdowns and intimate partner violence in Uganda?


Women who remained adherent to COVID-19 preventive measures in Uganda in mid-2020 were more likely to experience intimate partner violence (IPV) than women who were poorly adherent to the measures, according to a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLOS Global Public Health by Ronald Anguzu of the Medical College of Wisconsin, US, and colleagues.

51% of young girls and women in Uganda have experienced one form of physical or sexual IPV. COVID-19 lockdowns have been associated with psychological distress and decreased quality of life, especially in households with high poverty levels. Concerns have been raised about the population-level effects of COVID-19 prevention strategies and policies on violence against women and girls.

In the new study, Anguzu and colleagues conducted a three-month prospective cohort study, from July to October 2020, among 148 women living in informal settlements of Kampala, Uganda. Participants had a mean age of 32.9 years, 50.7% were married or cohabitating, and 78.2% reported food insecurity during the lockdown period. They were surveyed at baseline, 3 weeks and 6 weeks on their adherence to COVID-19 preventive measures, sociodemographic factors, and IPV.

Overall, 10.1% of participants were poorly adherent to COVID-19 preventive measures—including social distancing, wearing face masks and use of hand sanitizer. 58.1% of women in the study experienced at least one form of IPV between baseline and endline surveys. After controlling for potential confounders, remaining adherent to all four COVID-19 preventive measures was independently associated with 3.87 times higher odds of experiencing IPV (OR 3.87, 95%CI 1.09, 13.79).

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