The Covid-19 pandemic triggers the global escalation of violence against women

No country has been spared from the coronavirus epidemic, nor the scourge of domestic violence, which has increased during lock-in as the day for marking such violence approaches Wednesday.

From an increase in rape in Nigeria and South Africa, an increase in the number of women missing in Peru, a higher proportion of women killed in Brazil and Mexico and overwhelmed associations in Europe: the pandemic has exacerbated the plague of sexual violence.

According to UN data published at the end of September, blockades have led to increased complaints or calls to report domestic abuse of 25 percent in Argentina, 30 percent in Cyprus and France and 33 percent in Singapore.

In virtually all countries, measures to limit the spread of coronavirus have resulted in women and children being restricted at home.

“The house is the most dangerous place for women”, Moroccan associations noted in April when they pressured the authorities for “an emergency measure”.

In India, Heena – not her real name – a 33-year-old chef living in Mumbai, said she felt “stuck in my house” with a man who did not work, consumed drugs and was violent.

When she described what she had endured, she often broke down in tears.

After buying drugs “he would spend the rest of the day either connected to his phone playing PubG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) or hitting me and abusing me”, she told AFP by phone.

Insufficient measures

On August 15, her husband Heena beat her seven-year-old son worse than before and threw her out of the house at 3:00.

“I had nowhere to go,” she said. “I could barely move my body – he hit me a lot, my body was swollen.”

Instead of going to the police, she came to a friend’s home and then to her parents.

She is now fighting for custody of her son, “but courts are not working at full capacity because of Covid”.

She has not seen her son in four months, although he manages to call her a secret from time to time.

It is not just the courts that are hampered by the virus. The closure of businesses and schools, as well as cultural and athletic activities, have deprived victims who have already been weakened by financial insecurity of ways to escape violence.

Hanaa Edwar of the Iraqi women’s network told AFP that there had been “a dangerous deterioration in the socio-economic situation of families after the lock, with more families falling into poverty, leading to violent reactions”.

In Brazil, 648 murders of women were recorded during the first half of the year, a slight increase from the same period in 2019 according to the Brazilian Public Security Forum.

While the government has launched a campaign to encourage women to file complaints, the forum says measures to help victims remain inadequate.

‘Mask-19’

Worldwide, the UN says that only one in eight countries has taken measures to reduce the impact of the pandemic on women and children.

In Spain, victims could discreetly ask for help at pharmacies using the code “mask-19”, and some French associations established contact points in supermarkets.

“The women who came to us were in situations that had become unbearable, dangerous,” said Sophie Cartron, deputy director of an association that worked in a shopping mall near Paris.

“The locking created a wall of silence,” she said.

Mobilization on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, remains uncertain due to restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, March for Women’s Rights has recently taken place in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Liberia, Namibia and Romania.

“We will not be able to demonstrate to express our anger or march together,” said the Paris-based feminist group Family Planning.

“But we will make ourselves heard the same, virtually and visually.”

Tamara Mathebula of the South African Commission for Gender Equality described a chronic “toxic masculinity” that was “everywhere you look”.

“There are pay gaps between women and men that are increasing and continuing to increase during the Covid-19 pandemic,” she told AFP.

“Gender-based violence worsened” as a result, she said, and the potential consequences were very serious.

In July, the UN estimated that six months of restrictions could lead to a further 31 million cases of sexual violence worldwide and seven million unwanted pregnancies.

The situation also undermined the fight against female genital mutilation and forced marriage, the UN warned.

(AFP)