Throughout history, global pandemics and disease outbreaks have posed wide-ranging threats to the health and overall well-being of women, girls, and other vulnerable populations. As countries around the world combat the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not surprising that these populations are once again experiencing poor outcomes, including increased gender-based violence (GBV). Due to gender inequalities, women and girls carry out the majority of unpaid caregiving and domestic work, limiting their education and economic opportunities, especially during a health crisis. The COVID-19 health crisis has exacerbated gender inequalities, including women’s and girls’ existing economic vulnerabilities, leaving many at heightened risk of poor reproductive health outcomes and GBV.
Government-imposed lockdowns and restrictions on movement to contain the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, combined with the health, economic, and social stressors of the pandemic, increase the risk of GBV and make it harder for those in need to access GBV response services. For example, people may be trapped at home with their abusers with no way to access help. Additionally, the availability of GBV prevention and response services—already insufficient in many places—may decrease further as resources are diverted to the COVID-19 response.
GBV has long been a global problem, even without the presence of other crises. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one in three women worldwide reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence in her lifetime. And new data suggest that the pandemic is exacerbating the situation everywhere. The recently launched GBV Tracker documents the increasing GBV cases resulting from lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and encourages organizations working with GBV survivors to share their data to help maintain an updated count of cases around the world.
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