COVID-19 and Women’s Human Rights: Guidance on the Impact of the Pandemic on Gender-based Violence

Stay-at-home restrictions and other measures restricting the movement of people contribute to an increase in gender-based violence, a finding confirmed by media reports, 1 official statements and information received from OHCHR field presences and human rights defenders in many countries. Women and girls already in abusive situations are more exposed to increased control and restrictions by their abusers, with little or no recourse to seek support. Hotlines receive reports of women being threatened with being thrown out of their homes, exposed to the infection, or having financial resources and medical aid withheld. Accessing help can also be more difficult due to confinement with the abuser. Some hotlines are reporting a decrease in contacts, which they attribute to difficulties in making private calls, while text messages and emails are reportedly increasing. Services needed by victims may be deprioritized, including shelters, health care services, police and justice sector services. There are reports of shelters for gender-based violence survivors being closed or transformed into homeless shelters,  as well as reports of emergency hotlines operating with reduced service and mobile clinics and counselling services being cancelled. Another obstacle to accessing services is fear of the spread of the virus. According to media reports, some shelters have asked women to provide negative COVID-19 tests to be accepted, but tests are not widely accessible. Click here to read the full OHCHR brief

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