International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2020


25 Nov., International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

On March 11, 2020 WHO declared the Covid19 outbreak as a global pandemic. One of the worst global crises, with severe consequences, it has added new challenges to existing ones. WHO estimates that around 10% of the world’s population is infected. Marginalized populations bear the major brunt. Women, regardless of whether they are infected or not, suffer in multiple ways, some of which are invisible. These primarily relate to women’s safety in their homes as lockdowns have prevented them from escaping abuse and/or seeking external support.

Even before the pandemic, overall gender-based violence has been on the rise with one out of three women experiencing violence, often through their partners, at some stage in their lives (UN Statistics). GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion is cognizant of and condemns all types and forms of violence against women but has chosen at this point to focus on domestic violence in particular. Since the pandemic began, domestic violence is experiencing an unprecedented surge with tragic consequences. Help lines in many countries (Argentina, Cyprus, Singapore, and UK for instance) have registered a two to three-fold increase compared to pre-pandemic data. Increases have also been recorded in countries, like Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, the USA and across other continents (UN Statistics). A new study (Massachusetts, USA) revealed that when restrictions on non-essential activities were lifted, physicians saw a near-doubling of severe physical injury in domestic abuse cases in comparison to previous years. The severity of injuries prompted concerns that, as a result of the lockdown, care- seeking was delayed, despite the escalation of violence.

A combination of factors exacerbates women’s vulnerability to domestic violence during the Covid19 pandemic. These include the impact of lengthy stay-at-home periods, job and income losses deepening family stress due to the pandemic but also the fact that women and girls are often locked down with their abuser and are therefore unable to access support services. In fact, some survivors of domestic violence reported that the infection itself, has become an assault weapon. The pandemic’s socio-economic impact has also affected the availability of health and social services including those providing much needed support to survivors, such as shelters and refuges. The net result is that domestic violence is unabated, unaddressed, and, sometimes, under-prioritized. Action to deal with this enormous and widespread social ‘disease’ remains scattered and inadequate.

The Secretary General’s forward-looking call for “peace in the home” (April 2020) during the pandemic has brought renewed global attention to the issue of domestic violence. This was reinforced by the UN Executive Committee call (June 26, 2020) for a political engagement strategy for senior leaders at all levels, evidence-based advocacy on gender-based violence and strengthening of civil society organizations as full partners in the response and recovery work. Actions to eradicate domestic violence in a coordinated and effective manner are imperative and these demand leadership at all levels to become a collective responsibility. Currently, men are sadly missing in the equation.

GWL Voices strongly supports the SG’s approach to address this long-standing and pervasive problem that threatens women especially during this pandemic. GWL Voices endorses multilateralism as a framework that will succeed in the eradication of domestic violence at all levels and believes that the SG’s call against domestic violence should be supported globally at all levels.

GWL Voices recognizes that the fight against domestic violence cannot succeed without collective efforts between national leaders as well as leaders from other sectors and social strata. This letter is a call to leaders, from all segments of society especially male, to sign on to standing up against domestic violence through advocacy and practical action including resource mobilization to ensure that women’s safety gets the attention it deserves. GWL Voices believes that the SG’s Spotlight Initiative represents a strategic opportunity and calls for the creation of a group of male leaders to support and contribute directly to such advocacy and resource mobilization efforts at eradicating domestic violence. GWL Voices will seek synergies with efforts made in this regard by similar groups such as HeforShe, White Ribbon Campaign, and the Unite Campaign itself.

To rid the world of domestic violence, we need perseverance, zero tolerance, and adequate resources used in a coordinated and effective way by leadership at all levels. Lack of action is neither an option nor a choice. Only then will the home and the world be a better place for us to live in.

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