'To address gender-based violence amid COVID-19, we need creativity, collaboration and courage'


One glaring truth the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced when it comes to gender-based violence is that it is a humanitarian, development and socioeconomic crisis - a persistent and daunting triple threat whose solutions must be grounded in gender equality and human rights.

Even before the pandemic, gender-based violence was a debilitating challenge globally, with on average one out of three women experiencing some form of violence in her lifetime. In Asia and the Pacific the percentage of women disclosing experience of physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner ranged widely across different countries, from 15 per cent in places like Lao PDR and Japan to 64 per cent in several Pacific countries like Solomon Islands and Fiji.

Not long after WHO declared a COVID-19 pandemic in March, UNFPA forecast that an estimated 31 million additional incidents of gender-based violence could be expected globally, if lockdowns last for at least six months, with women confined indoors with their abusers. For every three months such restrictions continue, an additional 15 million incidents could be expected.

We’ve already seen huge spikes in the numbers of women seeking support, including through calls to dedicated helplines. Resources to address gender-based violence, already stretched thin in many places before the pandemic, are all the more challenged now. And we know that this escalating violence will have long-term and damaging socioeconomic consequences on women’s health, safety, security and economic participation.

Another truth that’s also been revealed is that responding to gender-based violence in the context of unprecedented challenge requires creativity, collaboration and courage – as displayed by the humanitarian heroes supporting survivors in so many different ways in country after country, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Saraswati Rai Chaudhury. Photo: THT
Saraswati Rai Chaudhury. Photo: THT