vsharma1Ben HastyMediaNews GroupReading Eagle via Getty Images_end domestoc violence Ben HastyMediaNews GroupReading Eagle via Getty Images

End the Pandemic of Violence Against Women

Pandemic-related lockdowns have increased the risk of violence against women and girls. Many governments have made more resources for survivors available as part of their pandemic-relief efforts, but this assistance can do little to prevent future violence without programs to address its root causes.

CAMBRIDGE – Violence against women and girls increases during periods of crisis. So, it should come as no surprise that COVID-19 has added to the risk of gender-based violence. Even before the pandemic, one in three women worldwide reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. But, by confining women at home with their abusers, pandemic-related lockdowns have increased their exposure to violence. Lockdowns have also contributed to economic stress, and diminished women’s access to the resources and support systems that help them escape abusive relationships.

In April 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for action to address gender-based violence during the pandemic. This call was supported by 146 countries. That same month, the United Nations Population Fund estimated that every three months of lockdown would result in an extra 15 million cases of violence against women and girls.

Eighteen months later, there is evidence that governments responded to Guterres’s appeal. Data tracked by the UN Development Programme show that, of 4,968 COVID-19 policy measures, 853 focused on violence against women. In the United States, for example, millions of dollars in pandemic-relief spending are being directed to strengthen urgently needed resources – such as shelters, psychological services, and housing assistance – that address the immediate needs of women experiencing violence.

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