Many countries around the world are in complete lockdown. Millions have been forced to stay at home, self-isolate or socially distance themselves to combat the ongoing threat of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The pandemic is creating an environment of high stress, anxiety and depression for millions of people. It’s taking an economic and social toll. It is also leading to increased rates of domestic violence. In times of crisis or natural disaster, children’s and women’s health and safety are the most severely compromised. In our current situation, this pattern is compounded by limited access to safe centers, shelters and health services.
National lockdowns have exposed many who experience abuse within their homes to danger on a daily basis.
In addition, strict quarantine measures have restricted people’s ability to report abuse. The majority of domestic violence victims are women. However, others such as LGBTQI individuals also face the risk of being abused or thrown out of their homes.
Current statistics show a worldwide surge in the number of reported gender-based violence (GBV) cases. There are increased incidences of domestic abuse and violence being reported from Brazil to China to Germany to the United States. Like the virus itself, this is a global issue.
The South African Police Minister has announced that nearly 90 000 cases of GBV were reported within the first week of the country’s lockdown. Crimes of intimate partner violence, sexual abuse and molestation have been seen to rise in record numbers.
Some countries are coming up with measures to protect and safeguard those in vulnerable circumstances.
In France, some women are being housed in hotels. Pop-up centers have been set up in malls across the country. People can use these centres to report GBV when they go out to buy medication or groceries.
In other countries, helplines have been set up for women to use during this difficult time. In Spain, lockdown conditions have been lifted to allow people experiencing abuse to seek help without being fined. Shelters and safe havens are being created in many other countries as well.
The UN Secretary- General, António Guterres, made an appeal to governments worldwide. He implored them to take the matter of abuse during COVID-19 seriously and to implement structures to support women and vulnerable groups.
During this time, we can all play a role by creating more awareness.
We can reach out to municipalities, governments and NGOs to ask for support and safety measures to be applied in our communities. By doing so, we can better protect those at risk of abuse and violence.