Women’s safety and metal health has suffered during the pandemic. A new report from UN Women shows 41% of women say their mental and emotional health have been negatively affected as a result of the pandemic. 45% of women have been exposed directly or indirectly to at least one form of violence against women (VAW), according to the report called Measuring the shadow pandemic: Violence against women during COVID -19.
Exposure was highest among women in Kenya (80%), Morocco (69%), Jordan (49%) and Nigeria (48%). Those in Paraguay were the least likely to report such experiences, at 25%, according to the report called Measuring the shadow pandemic: Violence against women during COVID -19.
Verbal abuse and denial of basic resources were the most common forms of VAW reported (23%), since the pandemic began. 16% reported sexual harassment and 15% reported physical abuse.
Women aged 18–49 years are the more VAW vulnerable group, with nearly 1 in 2 of them affected.
The report says it is commonly assumed that violence against women affects only women of a certain age but that this is not correct. Data shows that more than 3 in 10 women (34%) aged 60+ and more than 4 in 10 women aged 50–59 years (42%) reported having experienced violence or knowing someone who has since the pandemic began.
“Policies designed to address VAW must also consider particularly vulnerable groups, such as older women. Moreover, data-collection instruments, which are mainly capped at age 49, need to be revised to systematically measure the experienced of older women”, the report says.
WOMEN WITH CHILDREN
Women living with children were more likely to report having experienced violence or to know someone who has since COVID-19, whether they were partnered (47%) or not 48%).
The study found that the pandemic has eroded women’s feelings of safety, whether inside or outside of their households, with significant negative impacts on their mental and emotional well-being.
“Socioeconomic stressors such as financial pressure, employment, food insecurity and family relations stood out as having a significant impact not only on experiences of safety (or violence) but also on women’s well-being overall. Many women feel more unsafe at home during the pandemic 1 in 4 women (23%) said that COVID-19 has made things worse in terms of how safe they feel at home.”
When women were asked why they felt unsafe at home, many cited physical violence or threat of it as one of the reasons (21% across the pooled sample). Some women specifically reported that they were hurt by another family member (21%) or that other women in the household were victimized (19%).
More women younger than 60 report feeling more unsafe at home (24%) compared to women aged 60 and above (19%). More unemployed women report this (33%) than employed women (26%).
Women who reported that they feel less safe in public are more likely to say that they never went out of the house by themselves in the last month (11%) than those who feel more safe walking alone at night since COVID-19 (6%) and those who feel a similar level of safety (7%)
From the pooled estimates for 13 countries, nearly 7 in 10 women (68%) think the incidence of physical or verbal abuse by a spouse/partner violence has increased during the pandemic in the area where they live. Women in Kenya (92%), Bangladesh (81%), Albania (79%), Jordan (74%) and Nigeria (74%) had the highest perception of increased violence while the lowest rate was in Kyrgyzstan (33%).
Data from the 13 countries show that more than half (58%) of women said they think that sexual harassment in public spaces has worsened amid COVID-19. Women in Kenya (81%), Bangladesh (70%) and Nigeria (67%) were those most likely to feel an increased sexual harassment.
The report has five suggested actions:
- Put women at the centre of responses, including policy solutions, to ensure that women’s voices, needs and rights are reflected in pandemic responses, recovery, planning and decision-making, for example through their equal representation in COVID-19 task forces.
- Allocate additional resources and include evidencebased measures to address violence against women and girls in COVID-19 recovery and response plans through holistic and multisectoral measures that are fully integrated within national and local policies.
- Strengthen services for women who experience violence, including where COVID-19 has increased existing risk factors and vulnerabilities.
- Invest in medium- and long-term prevention efforts to end violence against women and girls that address gender norms, root causes and risk factors, especially for those that have been exacerbated by COVID-19.
- Ensure that gender statistics and sex-disaggregated data are collected regularly, including to measure the impacts of COVID-19 and short- and long-term violence against women and girls, to inform responses.