Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
Following restrictions on movement in order to try and reduce the impact of Covid-19, people across the world are currently stuck at home. Being confined at home is a challenge for everyone, but it is especially challenging for victims of gender–based violence. Covid-19 puts on hold our free movements, but it does not stop domestic abuse. As the deadly disease continues to spread across the world, victims of domestic violence face a double threat: highly contagious infection outside and chronic abuse inside.
There is a clear evidence that domestic violence is on the rise. Calls to Spain’s governmental helpline for victims of gender violence shot up in the first two weeks of lockdown. In Greenland, the capital banned the sale of alcohol following a surge in reports of violence in homes. Similarly, Argentina has seen at least six femicides during the country`s coronavirus period. Of course, violence is not defined by gender, nationality or religion. But what is the common that this mandatory quarantine puts women in additional peril, because femicide primarily occurs at home.
Similarly, it is important to look at the economic impact of Covid-19. Increasing job losses frequently put people into financial insecurity, which can trap people in toxic relationships. And I would argue that we have to admit that the economic impact of coronavirus is not so gender neutral as it seems at first glance. It affects men and women differently. Globally, women are more prone to economic shocks caused by crisis. Women`s participation in the labour market is often in the form of temporary employment rather than permanent contracts, that makes women especially vulnerable in the face of crisis. As the measures taken to combat covid-19 continue to wreck the global economy, those in temporary employment are laid off and they then incur the heaviest burden of unemployment.
In many developing countries, women tend to work without clear terms of employment, and they cannot claim benefits including sick and maternity leave, unemployment benefits, health insurance. If someone is a victim of domestic abuse but they are also constrained by financial insecurity and a lack of social protection, then often victims feel they cannot leave.
The current health crisis poses the biggest threat to elderly people and those with underlying health conditions. But we must not forget that this crisis also poses a risk to those in living as victims of domestic abuse, as the exacerbation of the economic structures in place (as a means to combat the virus), worsens the safety of victims and their ability to escape dangerous situations. This lockdown could serve as a catalyst that highlights the importance of another chronic pandemic: domestic abuse.