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The Twofold Pandemic: Domestic Violence and Covid-19

As we recuperate from the Covid-19 pandemic that unsettled the world, several issues have begun to surface that demand immediate attention.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on societies and economies across the globe, and one of the most concerning is the increase in violence against women.

While lockdowns and other restrictions have been put in place to slow the spread of the virus, they have also created conditions that make it easier for perpetrators of domestic violence to harm their victims.

For the majority of individuals, the lockdown motto "Stay Home. Stay Safe" was comforting. However, for many others, particularly women, it was a period of brutally forced captivity with their tormentors.

According to a report by the United Nations, there has been a significant increase in reports of domestic violence since the beginning of the pandemic. Lockdowns and social distancing measures have forced many victims to spend more time with their abusers, often without access to the usual support networks of friends, family, and community organizations.

In addition, many victims have been unable to leave their homes to seek help due to restrictions on movement.

Globally, there was a 25–33% increase in domestic violence cases in 2020, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

This leads to investigating what the data says about the relationship between the Covid-19 pandemic and the trend of increasing instances of domestic violence.

How did the Covid-19 pandemic raise domestic violence?

The pandemic created economic stress for many households, with job losses and reduced incomes leading to financial strain. In addition to entrapped living, women bore the brunt of the pandemic's financial uncertainty.

This exacerbated the existing tensions in relationships and increased the likelihood of violence. An alarming increase in domestic violence is one of the COVID-19 pandemic's hidden costs.

Furthermore, with healthcare systems overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, victims of violence find it more difficult to access medical care and support services.

When the pandemic began, domestic violence incidents climbed 300% in Hubei, China; 25% in Argentina; 30% in Cyprus; 33% in Singapore; and 50% in Brazil, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine and the United Nations organisation U.N. Women.

People of colour were impacted more severely as a result of systemic imbalances, which frequently result in poorer income and fewer access to public and private services, as is the case with many other issues.

"While one in three white women report having suffered domestic violence [during the pandemic], the incidence of abuse climbed substantially to nearly 50% and greater for individuals marginalised by ethnic background, gender identity, sexual orientation, citizenship, and cognitive and physical ability.

The impact of COVID-19 on violence against women has also been particularly severe in developing countries, where social safety nets and support systems are often weaker.

In India, official statistics show that the National Commission for Women (NCW) saw a 2.5-fold spike in domestic abuse complaints in comparison to the previous year. In 2020, 1477 complaints were submitted to the NCW between March 25 and May 31.

In many cases, governments have been slow to respond to the crisis, leaving victims with few options for support.

What do the Reports Say?

The concern about increasing violence has attracted attention. There have been numerous reports and studies on violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let us look at a few reports:

A report by the United Nations titled "COVID-19 and Ending Violence Against Women and Girls" found that there has been a "shadow pandemic" of violence against women during the COVID-19 crisis. The report highlights the various ways in which the pandemic has increased the risk of violence against women, including through increased economic and social stresses and reduced access to support services.The report calls for urgent action to address the issue and protect women and girls from violence.

A study published in The Lancet Global Health in October 2020 found that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in reports of domestic violence against women in India. The study found that the number of reported cases of domestic violence increased by 131% during the lockdown period and that women who were already experiencing violence before the pandemic were more likely to experience an increase in violence during the lockdown.

A report by the World Health Organization titled "COVID-19 and Violence against Women: What the Health Sector/System Can Do" guides health systems and healthcare providers on how to address violence against women during the pandemic. The report highlights the need for healthcare providers to be aware of the increased risk of violence during the pandemic and to provide support and referrals to women who are experiencing violence.

A report by the European Institute for Gender Equality titled "COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects" highlights the various ways in which the pandemic has impacted gender equality, including through an increase in violence against women. The report notes that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of addressing gender-based violence as a key part of any response to a crisis.

These are just a few examples of the reports and studies that have been published on violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic has had a significant impact on this issue, it has also brought increased attention to the need for action to address violence against women and protect women's rights and safety.

Despite the challenges, there have been some efforts to address the issue. Some governments and organizations have established hotlines and other support services for victims of violence, and some countries have increased funding for domestic violence prevention programs.

However, more needs to be done to ensure that victims of violence can access the support they need during this challenging time. The statistics on domestic violence are based on complaints made by individuals, while significant instances of domestic violence go unreported.

As the world grapples with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to recognize the impact it has had on violence against women. Governments, organizations, and individuals must work together to address this issue and ensure that victims can access the support they need to stay safe.

In many ways, the pandemic has provided a chance to assess the drawbacks that exist in the system, and clearly, women's safety is a matter that we need to look into.

The pandemic has once again brought to the forefront an issue that is apparent but is often disregarded.

Edited by- Adedamola Aresbegola

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