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COVID-19 and Domestic Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Most countries are now facing a crisis in the name of COVID-19. With crises often follows other socioeconomic problems and research shows that during pandemics there will be a rise in violence. [1]Though data is still scarce, reports from several countries are showing an increase in domestic Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) against women. The focus has so far been on violence against women, but Africa Alliance of YMCAs believe that it is important to also highlight that men can experience violence in relationships and that COVID-19 will also affect them in similar ways. SGBV is when a person experiences violence because of their gender and can take form as sexual, psychological, physical, mental or emotional violence. 

The pandemic is affecting everyone, but it is affecting groups in the society differently. Governments around the world are now urging people to exercise social distancing, reduce their mobility and stay at home to avoid the spreading of the virus. Though for men and women living in abusive relationships, staying at home with their partner might not be a safe place. Stress caused by their economic situation, maybe a decrease in income or loss of job, increased intake of alcohol, and living in small proximities upholding the social distancing can cause added conflict and violence. WHO reports that some of the ways the abuser might use COVID-19 for their advantage is to tell their victim false information about the virus, withhold ways to hand sanitize and use curfews and social distancing to further isolate their partner.[2]The restricted mobility might also make it more difficult to escape the abuser since the pandemic is affecting the social structures and safety net for victims. The pandemic is also putting the health care system under stress which might lead to services becoming more limited. SGBV can take form as sexual violence and can harm both men and women. However, for women experiencing sexual violence there is an added risk of unwanted pregnancies and access to contraceptives can be vital. Companies producing contraceptives are now reporting that the pandemic is affecting their supply chain which affects the access to it. 

There are different ways that everyone can help either as a friend, neighbor, organisation or government official. These are measures that can be taken on grassroot, community and governmental levels. In times like these we need to stand together and look after each other and make sure that everyone gets through this safely, both men and women. 

What can be done:

  • Include strategies to help victims, men and women, in emergency plans (including making sure there is access to services)
  • Economic measures to secure people’s income 
  • Spread information about available services
  • Everyone should stay vigilant and report cases

Written by Kristin Eliassen, SRHR and Youth Advisor 



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