Sunday December 05, 2021

Domestic violence

September 11, 2020

On March 23, 2020, as Covid 19 was overtaking the world, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres pleaded for peace: “To warring parties: Pull back from hostilities. Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes...End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.”

Two weeks later, horrified by the global surge in male violence against women, he again implored for peace: “Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for Covid 19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes. Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world. I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.”

In every region of the world, battery and sexual assault of women and girls isolated at home increased with the spread of the coronavirus. Reports from China’s Hubei province indicated that domestic violence tripled during February 2020 compared to February 2019. In France violence against women increased 30% after they initiated a March 17 lockdown; in Argentina, by 25%; and in Singapore, 33%. The pandemic in sexual assault of women and girls followed the Covid 19 pandemic in what Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called “a perfect storm for…violent behavior behind closed doors.” By the end of May 2020, nearly 250 million women and girls had reported suffering sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner, a far greater number than those infected by the virus.

“Stay Safe–Stay Home” is one of the essential public health measures in containing the Covid virus. Yet home is a dangerous and unsafe place for those 1 in 3 women worldwide who are physically and/or sexually abused over their lifetime, most by a male relative or intimate partner at home. Further, intimate partners commit one-half of femicides–the killing of women because they are women–throughout the world. School, the workplace outdoors, anywhere is safer than home for women and girls at risk of domestic violence.

An estimated 1.6 billion of the world’s children lost their in-school education because of Covid-19, with many in developing countries lacking the benefit of online education at home. For girls, this setback can be yet more dangerous, more violent and more life-limiting. Boarding schools in Tanzania have saved girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) until Covid sent them home. According to the NGO Terre des Hommes, which runs a safe house for girls, “The community has taken advantage of this situation of Covid-19 and where children are now back at home, they are cutting their girls. They know it is against the law but they are not afraid.”

Excerpted from: ‘A Pandemic Within the Pandemic’