The 16 days of activism for Gender-based violence, celebrated each year from 25th November (International Day Against Violence Against Women) to 10th December (International Human Rights Day), is going on with the theme Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” in 2020.
The year 2020 was rather an unfortunate year for the women around the world, as the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence spiked up alongside the global health pandemic of COVID 2020. As the world retreated inside homes as lockdown measures were undertaken across the world, gender-equality went a foot back from its earlier point.
UN Women’s recent rapid assessment report on 49 countries across 5 regions on the impact of COVID19 on violence against women and girls and service provision highlights the major impacts of the pandemic on the lives of women and girls around the world. Although limitations and challenges such as inadequate information and lack of safe data collection mechanism are dominating in the data collection process for every research on this matter, the UN women study highlights that 80% of the countries who provided information/data, reported an increase in calls to helplines/hotlines after the pandemic outbreak.
As per the report, a 40% increase has been reported in Malaysia; a 50% increase in China and Somalia; a 79% increase in Colombia, and a 400% increase in Tunisia. In some countries like Ethiopia, a decrease in calls was recorded however, that signifies a rise in the amount of fear in seeking help and lack of privacy. Furthermore, mobility restrictions have likely to alter the rate of reporting to police and health sectors about the gender violence case in many countries. In India, there was an increased number of reporting of violence through e-mail.
Furthermore, the pandemic has been extra difficult for women who are living with some form of disabilities, HIV/AIDS, adolescent girls, migrant women, rural women, and women refugees. It is reported that women with disabilities and elderly women who have recovered from COVID-19 are stigmatized and isolated from the support of their communities. Women migrants have faced additional challenges of being denied services, lack of isolation space, and social stigmatization during the pandemic.
The report shares that survivors of gender-based violence also have limited information and awareness about available social and health services, and legal and protection services. The service providers are also having a hard time maintaining all the services in place due to pandemic restrictions. Funds and resources planned earlier for gender-based violence response are increasingly diverted for immediate COVID19 relief purposes in many countries. Service providers also mainly run on limited capacity and resources which are often inadequate to respond during crises. At the same time, the persistent challenges during COVID19 have signaled to technological requirements adept to address the critical needs of women with privacy, security, and safety.
As such, this year’s 16 days activism period has highlighted the need for a holistic and reformative approach to identify, address, respond and record the issues and needs of women and gender minorities in this changing socio-economic conditions post-pandemic.
This year’s theme Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect aims to raise advocacy about the wholesome approach required to address the layers of impacts. This year’s theme demands raising voices to demand
FUND: gender-responsive funds and resources specifically focused on women’s rights organizations and service providers and support health and social services to continue their duty of care to violence against women survivors and to remain accessible, especially to those most likely to be left behind.
RESPOND Feminist responsive measures from national and local level that are survivor-centric, focused on women’s empowerment, and socio-economically uplifting from an ongoing economic crisis.
PREVENT: Put preventative measures in place, dispatch preventative and crisis management funds to women-oriented services and place a high priority on police and justice responses.
COLLECT: Collect data only if it is clear that it is needed, it will be used to improve services/programs, and ethical and safety standards can be met
The uncertainty of the pandemic has created a riskier environment for women and girls, especially in societies where gender-based violence is rampant. In addition to gender-based violence, women across the world have reported facing increased household burden, lack of job security, increased psychological stress, loss of income and education, pressures to early marriages, and social discrimination on multiple levels.
As the world is moving to a new normal, it is important to assess how the new normal will look on women’s lives, growth, and freedom across the world and design the responsive measures without keeping any particular group of people in a disadvantageous position.