Ending violence against women (VAWG)
According to recent data, 243 Million of Women and girls aged 15-49 have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence worldwide perpetrated by an intimate partner in the previous 12 months.
VAWG tends to increase during every type of emergency, including epidemics. The Ebola pandemic demonstrated that multiple forms of violence were exacerbated within crisis contexts, including domestic violence, trafficking, child marriage, and sexual exploitation and abuse.
Emerging data shows that since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic that has deepened economic and social stress coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures, VAWG has surged in many countries including some UfM countries. In addition, with a strained health system, access to vital sexual and reproductive health services, including for women subjected to violence, is likely becoming more limited. Other services, such as hotlines, crisis centres, shelters, legal aid, and protection services may also be scaled back, further reducing access to the few sources of help that women in abusive relationships might have. This is worse for women who are displaced, refugees, and living in conflict-affected areas who are particularly vulnerable.
While recognizing that COVID-19 has placed an immense burden on health systems including frontline health workers, there are things and urgent steps to be undertaken that can help mitigate the impacts of violence on women and girls during this pandemic.
Questions to guide the discussion:
- How can policy makers and national authorities include services to address VAW in preparedness and response plans for COVID-19, how to resource them, and what are the best ways to make them accessible in context of physical distancing measures?
- How can information at the local level be made available and facilitated about services (e.g. hotlines, shelters, rape crisis centres, counselling) for survivors, including opening hours, contact details and whether these can be offered remotely, and establish referral linkages? How can such services prove to be effective during a pandemic?
- What can be done to improve the Health system, so it can manage to continue providing the necessary support to women and girls victims of violence, even during a health crisis?
- What actions are needed to raise awareness among community members and families about the increased risk of domestic/partner violence during this pandemic, and the need to keep in touch and provide support safely to women subjected to violence?