Five ways governments are responding to violence against women and children during COVID-19
11 Apr 2020
© UNICEF/UNI315905/@_girl_from_pluto@_girl_from_pluto is part of a small group of teen photographers with a shared thirst for new inspiration and the tenacity to continue documenting their lives with photographs. They used Instagram's messaging system to create ‘Covid-19 Photos For Teens’. They come from places such as Denmark, India, Canada, and the US.
While the world may have been caught off guard by the size and ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis, it should be prepared to respond to the increased risks to the wellbeing and safety of children and women. Violence against children and violence against women are widespread globally and intrinsically linked, sharing common risk factors and similar adverse and severe consequences. The literature within pandemics may be limited, but we have enough evidence to say unequivocally that related factors—such as confinement, social isolation, increased levels of financial stress, and weak institutional responses—can increase or intensify levels of violence.
Indeed, over the past month, reports have warned of the “perfect storm”, manifesting in increased calls to helplines, online support services, and police reports.Indeed, over the past month, reports have warned of the “perfect storm”, manifesting in increased calls to helplines, online support services, and police reports. Multinational organisations quickly took action, issuing statements warning of increased risk of both forms of violence, while researchers reviewed evidence from past crises, proposing policy actions to mitigate against potential harm to populations in situations of vulnerability. As governments ramp up response to COVID-19, what is actually being done to combat violence?
1. Expansion of helplines and information sharingInformation is being shared widely through guides, resources, and advocacy targeting friends and family members. Parenting for Lifelong Health has compiled evidence-supported guidance for safe parenting during quarantine. Helplines and online support platforms are being expanded or established. Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, is preventing “an emergency within an emergency” by advertising the 1522 helpline for violence and stalking. Numerous other countries are committing to keeping helplines and information channels open during and after the peak of COVID-19.
2. Funding shelters and other safe accommodation options for survivorsNumerous countries have acknowledged that additional safe housing is needed during times of quarantine. Safe accommodation allows survivors (and accompanying minors) to temporarily escape abusers. As part of its COVID-19 relief package, Canada has allocated $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres [March 18]. In France, a €1.1 million funding increase for anti-abuse organisations included 20,000 hotel nights for survivors to escape abusive partners [March 30]. In Trento (Italy), a prosecutor ruled that in situations of domestic violence the abuser must leave the family home rather than the victim [March 28]. Similar rulings have been given in Austria and Germany. Although a laudable decision, it makes guaranteeing the safety of survivors, who remain at home a challenge given that perpetrators know where to reach them and may have access to the home.
Sixteen-year-old Julia attends online school from home while her parents telework during the Coronavirus outbreak in New York.