Evidence suggests that violence against women has increased during pandemic


One in three women experience physical and/or sexual violence in her lifetime, shows WHO's new estimates.

Most of this occurs as intimate partner violence. Estimates suggest the South- East Asia Region, which also includes Nepal, ranks second highest, at around 33 per cent.

According to a press release issued by the Regional Office for South-East Asia to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence which ends on Human Rights Day (December 10), such violence has serious health impacts, both immediate and long term, including injuries, sexually transmitted infections, HIV and unplanned pregnancies as well as mental health problems.

These place violence against women among today's priority public health issues.

The annual campaign aims to strengthen awareness and action to end violence against women. On its 30th anniversary of this annual campaign, the WHO has joined the call 'Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now!' "Such violence only tends to increase during emergencies and epidemics, resulting in higher risks to the health and safety of women and girls. Evidence suggests that violence against women has increased during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"Women have been disproportionately affected by loss of livelihoods, increasing their economic vulnerability and dependence, and by school closures. Their unpaid work burdens have increased dramatically. This increased vulnerability comes at a time when the pandemic has disrupted social protection services, such as hotlines, shelters and legal aid, and disrupted vital sexual and reproductive health services, often the first point of contact for survivors of violence," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South- East Asia. According to Dr Khetrapal Singh, health policymakers and managers must strengthen the capacity of the health system and health service providers and ensure continuity, adequate resourcing and appropriately adapted delivery of services for survivors as part of essential health services. The health sector has a role to play, with other sectors and stakeholders, in preventing violence against women and girls. The health sector has a role to play in advocating for, developing and implementing evidence-informed policies and strategies for gender-based violence prevention and response.

Community members can also help increase awareness, stay in touch with survivors in safe ways, and discreetly offer information and support, she suggested. According to data released by Women, Children and Senior Citizens Service Directorate of Nepal Police, 18,927 cases of cases of violence against women and children were recorded in Nepal in fiscal 2020-21 compared to 15,830 in the previous fiscal, an increase by 17.8 per cent.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 27, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.