Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 — On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the world, as is a second global scourge: violence against women and girls. Violence against women and girls undermines global health, education, and economic development in normal times. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of domestic violence have increased by 20-40 percent in some countries.
As nations around the world struggle to recover from a tidal wave of illness, they must resolve to simultaneously “build back safer” by confronting the greatest threat to the health of women and girls: domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.
There are five things national governments, civil society, donor nations, and international development institutions can do to increase protection and justice for women and girls everywhere:
- Build criminal justice capacity to restrain violent men and secure accountability for their crimes
- Support national hotlines to receive reports of gender-based violence and to direct callers to justice and social services
- Transition court processes to on-line adjudication during COVID-19 lockdowns, as the Philippines has successfully done with cases of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC)
- Invest in COVID-19-safe family shelters for women and children fleeing violent homes
- Engage survivors of domestic violence to inform best practices for law enforcement and social services for women and girls.
In 2020, this international day of awareness and activism on violence against women holds special significance. While so many of us are sheltering at home to protect our families and communities from the spread of COVID-19, for women and children who live with their abusers, home can be the most dangerous place in the world. And so today, more than ever, we must take stock of our response to this enduring crime and recommit ourselves to ending it.