Gender-based violence: a disease more widespread than COVID

Work by Ed Lustan

MANILA, Philippines – Two years after the COVID-19 hit, violence against women and children in the confined spaces of homes and other places of containment is drawing attention.

As the COVID pandemic has caused death and heartache for thousands of families, lockdowns that have kept people at home have covered abuse of women and children, with cases going unseen and access to health. help for shrinking victims.

It was the focus of this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a United Nations event celebrated from November 25 to December 10 to end the continuing violence targeting women and children and which has been described as a more “ubiquitous” disease than COVID.

READ: As COVID closes schools, homes become dangerous places for children

The UN has declared that gender-based violence, which is a serious violation of rights, is a harmful act directed against an individual on the basis of their gender. The violence, the UN said, was rooted in “gender inequality, abuse of power and harmful beliefs.”

On November 15, UN Women revealed that since the start of the COVID-19 disaster, two in three women in 13 countries have reported that they or a woman they know have experienced violence. Only one in ten victims would seek help.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

This type of violence, said UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous, is a “global crisis” that threatens women. She said more than 70% of gender-based violence cases have been “exacerbated” by the COVID disaster.

READ: Fighting gender-based violence

In 2020, as closures kept millions of people inside homes, the Philippine National Police (PNP) documented 4,260 cases of violence against women and children in just three months. At least 2,183 cases have been committed against women.

PNP said that from March 23 to May 27 last year, at least 602 people were sexually assaulted. This meant that there were an average of eight rape cases per day during this time.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

The Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) and Social Weather Stations (SWS) said one in four Filipinos (25%) believe this pervasive violence is the most serious problem women face during the pandemic of COVID.

According to the survey results, at least 11% cited physical violence as the top concern for women during the pandemic. At least 7% cited sexual assault. At least 7 percent cited emotional abuse.

This worsened when victims were locked up with their attackers and access to help declined. “The COVID-19 crisis, with all of its isolation and distancing, has allowed invisible violence,” Bahous said.

“Crisis ignored”

Oxfam Pilipinas, the Philippine branch of the international poverty alleviation group Oxfam, said the pandemic had worsened gender-based violence around the world. What has become glaring, however, is the government’s lack of action to protect victims, especially women, from violence.

READ: Pandemic limited Philippines’ access to gender-based support and anti-violence offices – Oxfam

Oxfam International said the government’s investment in tackling gender-based violence was “significantly insufficient”. Only 0.0002 percent of funds for COVID have been allocated to preventing gender-based violence.

In the Eastern Visayas, Bicol region, Metro Manila, and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 279 people were interviewed and said they found access to support services and anti-cancer services. gender-based violence also restricts.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

Before the pandemic, at least 9% of those surveyed said they had access to support services on gender-based violence. In 2020, when the pandemic and a series of typhoons hit the Philippines, only 3% said they had access to help. Only four respondents said there had been no change.

Jeanette Dulawan of Oxfam Pilipinas said the group was concerned about cases of gender-based violence that went unreported due to lockdowns and “cultural barriers”.

“As we focus on protecting the public from the virus, we are perhaps neglecting the most at-risk members of our society, some of whom may face higher risks of gender-based exploitation and abuse.” , she said.

READ: Violence Against Women and Girls: A Pandemic We Must End Now


The United Nations Population Fund explained that violence, especially against women, diminishes the health, dignity, security and independence of its victims, “but it remains surrounded by a culture of silence.”

The Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey found that one in four Filipino women aged 15 to 49 had experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence from their husbands or partners.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

In 2020, the Ulat Lila of the Center for Women’s Resources, which was presented at the University of the Philippines Diliman, said that a woman or child experiences violence every 10 minutes, explaining that threats of gender-based violence are increasing. .

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said in 2018 that eight in ten Filipino LGBTQ + children had experienced physical and psychological violence. The proportion of child abuse was highest (75%) among LGBTQ + people compared to heterosexual men (65.9%) and heterosexual women (61.8%).

They need help

From October 2019 to September 2020, there was an increase in online research related to violence against women in the Philippines, as well as in seven countries in Asia, UN Women said.

It was revealed that there was a 63 percent increase in searches related to physical violence against women while there was a 10 percent increase in searches related to seeking help.

FamiLigtas, which seeks to raise awareness about gender-based violence, said only 3.5% of victims were able to seek professional help. He said violence is not just the problem of victims, explaining that “we can all end this violence”.

UN Women has said that while gender-based violence is pervasive and has gone unnoticed for decades, it is not inevitable. He said ending violence is everyone’s business and people should not be silent.

Here are 10 ways to “make a difference” safely and effectively:

  • Listen and believe the victims
  • Teach and learn from the next generation
  • Call for answers and adapted services
  • Understanding consent
  • Learn the signs of abuse and how you can help
  • Start a conversation
  • Stand up against the culture of rape
  • Help women’s organizations
  • Hold each other accountable
  • Know the data and demand more

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