With more and more people staying home due to COVID-19 causing concern for a different problem like ” domestic violence”.
WHO refers to domestic violence as violence, abuse and intimidation between people who are currently or have previously been in an intimate relationship. The perpetrator uses violence to control and dominate the other person. This causes fear, physical harm and or psychological harm.
The social and health crisis brought by this pandemic COVID-19 is hitting woman hardest with enforcing lockdowns adding to the pile of unpaid domestic Labour and too often trapping woman at home with abusive partners.
All around the globe women activists are sounding alarm as measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 give rise to new challenges for women and create dangers for those who have become isolated and cut from support networks. Violence against women remains a major global public health and women’s health threat during emergencies and is highly prevalent including intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence.
According to WHO: Globally 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by an perpetrator in their lifetime.
Violence against women tends to increase during every type of emergencies including, pandemic lockdowns women who are displaced, refugees, and living in conflict-affected areas are particularly vulnerable .while data are scare, reports from China, UK, USA and other countries suggest an increase in domestic violence cases since the COVID-19 outbreak.
In China, government officials say domestic violence cases reportedly tripled the month that COVID-19 initially broke out the number of cases was reportedly that highest for a month in 3 years and those numbers are likely similar in the USA. One of the largest problems they are facing in this current crisis is a lack of space for victim especially for those who might have been exposed to COVID-19 personally.
BBC had reported that the hashtag #Anti domestic violence during epidemic has been discussed more than 3000 times on Chinese social media platform Sina weibo . Feng yuan , the director of Beijing based women’s rights non-profit weiping said her organisation had received Three times as many inquiries from victims that they did before quarantine were in phase.
Activists say abuse has already increased elsewhere in the world. According to the office for national statistics, BBC has reported an estimated 1.6 million women and 786000 men experienced domestic abuse in England and wales in the year ending March 2019.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Patel said the current restrictions asking people to stay indoors were even harder for the one’s whose “home is not the safe haven it should be”, the BBC reported.
“I am acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave the victims of hidden crime, such as domestic abuse and child sexual abuse, feeling especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed,” said Patel in her newspaper column.
“But my message to every potential victim is simple: we have not forgotten you and we will not let you down.
“And my message to every perpetrator is equally as simple: you will not get away with your crimes.
Dtnext reported that Paris-based psychiatrist Marie-France Hirigoyen recently recounted the plight of one woman stuck at home.
“When her husband drinks, the effects are already terrible she frequently suffers from psychological and physical violence. But with the lockdown, that risk has increased. She just called me saying he went out to do some shopping and buy alcohol; she’s terrified of when he returns,” Hirigoyen was quoted as saying.
COVID-19 could uniquely impact intimate partner violence survivors. Abusive partners may withhold necessary items such as hand sanitizer or disinfectant, they may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors, or to prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms. Survivors who are older or have chronic heart or lungs conditions may be at increased risk in public places where they would typically get support like shelters counselling centres. Travel restrictions may impact a survivors escape or safety plan.
According to WHO :
What can be done to address VAW during the COVID-19 response
While recognizing that COVID-19 has placed an immense burden on health systems including frontline health
workers, there are things that can help mitigate the impacts of violence on women & children during this pandemic.
- Governments and policymakers must include essential services to address VAW in preparedness and response plans for COVID-19, resource them, and identify ways to make them accessible in the context of social distancing measures.
- Health facilities should identify information about services available locally (e.g. hotlines, shelters, rape crisis centres, counselling) for survivors, including opening hours, contact details and whether these can be offered remotely, and establish referral linkages.
- Health providers need to be aware of the risks and health consequences of VAW. They can help women who disclose by offering first-line support and relevant medical treatment. First-line support includes: listening empathetically and without judgment, inquiring about needs and concerns, validating survivors’ experiences and feelings, enhancing safety, and connecting survivors to support.
- Humanitarian response organizations need to include services for women subjected to violence and their children in their COVID-19 response plans and gather data on reported cases of VAW.
- Community members should be made aware of the increased risk of violence against women during this pandemic and the need to keep in touch and support women subjected to violence, and to have information about where help for survivors is available. It is important to ensure that it is safe to connect with women when the abuser is present in the home.
- Women who are experiencing violence may find it helpful to reach out to supportive family and friends, seek support from a hotline, or seek out local services for survivors. They may also find it useful to have a safety plan in case the violence escalates. This includes having a neighbour, friend or relative or shelter identified to go to in the event they need to leave the house immediately for safety.
The author is a student at Aligarh Muslim University and can be reached at [email protected]