Gender-Based Violence Globally and COVID-19

Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

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THE ISSUE

Levels of gender-based violence are rising due to COVID-19. In just the first few weeks of the crisis, communities globally – including in the United States – have witnessed an increase in gender-based violence (GBV) such as intimate partner violence while struggling with the loss of traditional safety networks, resources, and services. The physical, mental and social impacts of GBV are not only personal to the victim but also have the potential to hinder emergency response efforts and may impede long-term recovery. 

One in three women experience physical or sexual violence during the course of their lives; during crises such as COVID-19, that type of GBV increases to even more staggering levels. The stress and disruption caused by crises exacerbate underlying norms that lead to acts of domestic violence. Violence is heightened when movement is restricted under movement restriction orders or incomes are disrupted, forcing victims to remain trapped with or dependent on their abusers. The Ebola pandemic demonstrated that violence such as child marriage, trafficking, and sexual exploitation and abuse can surface due to complex underlying social norms in emergencies.

The drivers of gender-based violence during crises are increasingly complex, and already marginalized groups are being disproportionately impacted Critical programs to support women and girls – which are already under-resourced – are disrupted during global pandemics. GBV response and prevention services, particularly in the health sector, may be weakened when not deemed “essential” as already limited resources and supplies are diverted to fund infection control and treatment. Even where basic essential services are maintained, a collapse in a coordinated response between different sectors such as health, police, justice, and social services response, as well as a general overburdening of health systems will mean that sectors will be challenged to provide meaningful and relevant support to women and girls who are experiencing violence.

TALKING POINTS

  • 1 in 3 women will experience violence in her lifetime—and rates of violence are increasing under COVID-19.
  • Not addressing gender-based violence globally during COVID-19 responses will hinder emergency response efforts and impede long-term recovery. 
  • The United States’ response to COVID-19 must include redoubled efforts to end gender-based violence globally.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Ensure adequate funding to address gender-based violence.
  • Support program measures that integrate GBV prevention and mitigation.
  • Ensure U.S. Government programs are based on a gender analysis and collect sex- and age-disaggregated data.
  • Prioritize women-, girl-, and community-led solutions and knowledge.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally: COVID-19 and Gender-Based Violence Globally (available here)
  • Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally: Violence Against Women and Girls Globally (available here)

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Tarah Demant

Director, Gender, Sexuality, and Identity Program

(202) 509-8180

[email protected]