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, VAWG has surged in many countries, including some UfM members. With deepened economic and social stress, together with movement and physical isolation restrictions, calls to helplines in the first days of confinement increased fivefold in some countries. However, other countries saw a decline in reports, suggesting that some women face barriers to reporting violence or seeking help. With a strained health system, access to vital sexual and reproductive health services 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 available help resources. 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, there are urgent steps to be taken to help mitigate the impacts of VAWG during this pandemic. Governments need to urgently implement preparedness and response measures to support women and girls experiencing any form of violence and ensure that quality services are provided as a part of the pandemic response.
- How can policy makers and national authorities include services to address VAW in preparedness and response plans for COVID-19, and what are the best ways to make them accessible?
- How can information on survivor’s services be made available and facilitated (e.g. hotlines, shelters, rape crisis centres, counselling)? How can such services prove to be effective during a pandemic?
- What actions are needed to raise awareness among community members and families about the increased risk of domestic/partner violence during this 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?