Gender-based violence and COVID-19
UN Women estimates that globally in the past 12 months 243 million women and girls aged 15–49 years were subjected to sexual and/or physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner. As a result of the lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19, emerging data show that such violence has intensified. In France, for example, reports of domestic violence have increased by 30% since the lockdown started on 17 March, and in Argentina emergency calls about domestic violence have increased by 25% since its lockdown started on 20 March. Many other countries have reported such increases.
In Botswana the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Annah Mokgethi said recently: “During this period of extreme social distancing, I have noted that the level of Gender Based Violence (GBV) has increased as reflected by 31 cases of defilement and 22 cases of rape reported since 23rd March to 5th April 2020. It is important to emphasise that these statistics are simply tip of an iceberg as reports from various GBV Service Providers have not been recorded. Gender Based Violence is the most prevalent human rights violation in the world, including Botswana. Noting the escalating cases of defilement, it is my plea that as parents, we must equip adolescents with tools and expertise to grasp the root causes of violence in their communities; to coach and involve their peers and communities to prevent such violence; and to learn about where to access support if violence is experienced”.
She declared this when receiving a donation of sanitary pads from members of Seraleng Botswana Democratic Group.
Recently, the Odnoklassniki social network, known as OK, hosted a broadcast for experts and others to discuss how to survive lockdown and avoid family conflict and gender-based violence. The broadcast was seen by 1.7 million OK network users across Eastern Europe and central Asia.
“I live in Kyrgyzstan,” Ulzisuren Jamstran, a representative of UN Women in Kyrgyzstan, said. “Here, according to the government, the level of domestic violence increased by 65%. We see an increase in aggression against women and children in Kyrgyzstan. We see an increase in suicides among children, even young children.”
Dina Smailova, the founder of the #DontBeSilentKZ nongovernmental organisation, addressed female survivors of violence. “When we are silent, we allow these crimes to multiply. I urge women not to be silent. Our movement is expanding; we are active not only in Kazakhstan, but also in other countries of central Asia and beyond.”
The broadcast highlighted successful experiences around the world in responding to gender-based violence. The example in Spain, where women in danger can visit pharmacies and use a code word to alert staff that they need help, was praised. The role of the private sector was also shown to be important—since many shelters are not open at present, hotels are stepping in and providing shelter, either for free or at a minimal cost.
The broadcast was part of a joint initiative of the UNAIDS regional office for eastern Europe and central Asia, the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education and OK, in partnership with the regional office of UN Women for eastern Europe and central Asia. [The Patriot Woman, unaids.org]