Violence against women has long been recognized as a global epidemic, and the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly escalated threats to women’s safety, security and access to justice. The devastating ripple effects of the virus such as overburdened health systems, the global economic downturn, school closures and national lockdowns have created a “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence (GBV).
Under lockdown and other physical distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus, women around the world have been confined to their homes, many out of reach of service providers and some trapped in quarantine with their abusers. In addition, rising stress levels, strains on economic resources and isolation from support networks further contribute to the increased risks of GBV during COVID-19.
Lockdowns have limited access to essential services for survivors of GBV, such as health facilities, police stations and courts. Health workers have been pulled out of structures that provide services for survivors and resources have been reallocated to contain and respond to the direct health threats presented by COVID-19.
A report by IDLO, UN Women and others states that the pandemic exacerbates threats to women’s access to justice and cites curtailed access to justice institutions, rising intimate partner violence, growing injustice for women workers and discriminatory laws, combined with pre-existing gender inequalities, as some of the major risks to women’s lives and livelihoods associated with COVID-19.
Amid the pandemic, IDLO is working around the world to eliminate gender-based violence in all its forms. With approaches tailored to the local context, IDLO is adapting existing interventions and innovating new components of programming to ensure justice for women is not derailed during this crisis.