Violence against women and girls remains one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the world as we know it. The global crisis is not only about the worldwide loss of human life, it also gives rise to unprecedented challenges to public health organisations, food systems and the world of work. It has already caused devastating disruption, both  conomic and social. The risk of extreme poverty and hunger is a harsh reality for over 100 million people around the world.

The sad reality is that women and girls are facing disproportionate impacts from the pandemic. Among these is the worrying, and too often ignored, increase in domestic violence. The United Nations has called this The Shadow Pandemic.

Accompanying the crisis has been a spike in domestic violence reporting, at exactly the time that services, including rule of law, health and shelters, are being diverted to address the pandemic,” stated the UN Secretary-General’s report, “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19“.

There is not a country in the world that has been spared the COVID-19 Pandemic. Sadly this is also true of the scourge of domestic violence, which has surged during the worldwide lockdowns.

With the closure of businesses, schools, cultural and athletic activities around the world, victims already weakened by economic insecurity, have been left with no way to escape violence in the home.

The pandemic has both worsened and intensified sexual violence. Helplines and crises centres across Europe are overwhelmed by calls. There has been a marked an increase in cases of rape in both Nigeria and South Africa, and a spike in the numbers of women murdered in Mexico and Brazil. Data released by the United Nations in September show increases in calls reporting domestic violence in Argentina (25% increase), Cyprus and France (30% increase each), and Singapore (33% increase).

According to United Nations reports, only one country in eight has taken measures to lessen the pandemic’s impact on women and children. In July, the UN estimated that six months of restrictions could result in 31 million additional cases of sexual violence in the world. They warned that the fight against female genital mutilation and forced marriages is also being undermined due to the pandemic.

16 Days of Activism

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign which runs from 25 November – 10 December each year.

The campaign was launched in 1991 by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, and it remains the most widely recognized and longest-running campaign for women’s rights in the world. The reach and power of this initiative is made possible by the thousands of grassroots activists and organizations that give it life as a truly global movement.

This year’s campaign will take place under the 2020 global theme: “UNITE – Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”

What can you do?

  • Support the campaign by wearing an orange ribbon during the 16-day period
  • Support organisations and community groups who support abused women and children.
  • Speak out against woman and child abuse.
  • Encourage silent female victims to get help.
  • Report child abuse to the relevant authorities.
  • Talk to friends, relatives and colleagues to take a stand against abuse of women and children.
  • Try to understand how your own attitudes and actions might perpetuate sexism and violence.
  • Spread the message on social media using #16DaysofActivism