The COVID-19 pandemic, as other public emergencies and disasters, has led to a spike in gender-based violence. The increase is partly a result of women being forced into their homes with their perpetrators. Restrictions on movement imply that networks of support can no longer be utilised, including taking shelter at maternal homes or with friends. As a result, the United Nations Population Fund predicts a 20% rise in gender-based violence cases globally in 2020.
Response mechanisms to violence have been weakened because of the closure of crisis-response services and diversion of resources to deal with the pandemic. Government authorities and non-profit organisations in India and elsewhere have been using digital tools to reach out to survivors, given the absence of physical services. While these helpline numbers existed before the pandemic, specific helplines are also being instituted by government bodies to receive complaints during lockdown. Such initiatives are very welcome in ensuring that women are able to access some form of support through the pandemic.
Thousands of women have been using these services to seek help, and there are successful cases of intervention. However, these measures may not be sufficient given the barriers to reporting that have resulted in gross underreporting. Lack of access to technology and resources act as primary barriers in addition to intensified restrictions on movement.
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