The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) shows that the impacts and implications of COVID-19 are different for women and men, and that they are exacerbating existing gender inequalities.  Gender-based violence is increasing exponentially on the back of economic and social stress coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures, as many women are forced into lockdown at home with their abusers when protection services are disrupted or made inaccessible. The pandemic has also challenged the ability of health and social services to reach those most in need. Therefore, countries are coming up with innovative solutions that provide support and safety to victims of violence.
Emerging data shows that since the COVID-19 outbreak, global, regional and country reports of violence against women and particularly domestic violence, have increased due to security, health and financial tensions, and imposed lockdowns, isolation and social distancing measures. Life-saving care and support services are being disrupted as health service providers are overburdened and preoccupied with handling COVID-19 cases. Where basic essential services are continuing, social distancing poses a challenge in provision of meaningful and relevant support to women and girls who are experiencing violence or are at risk, and there are breakdowns in ensuring a coordinated response between the sectors (such as health, police, justice and social services) and civil society and women’s rights organizations, which in many countries, provide most of the frontline services for survivors.
Within this context, the regional UN Issue-based Coalition (IBC) on Gender equality is convening a 90-minute interactive webinar focused on sharing lessons learned and challenges in addressing gender-based violence in country-level COVID-19 responses, including within socio-economic impact frameworks and responses. The session will generate discussion on the collective role of the UN system in addressing violence against women through a multidimensional focus on health, social, economic and legal responses within programme countries in the region. The session will also discuss ways to address gender equality and violence against women and girls as a central feature of national socio-economic responses and all efforts to build back better from the pandemic.