Governments across the world must act urgently to prevent and tackle the rising rates of violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 crisis, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said Friday.
Governments must put “stronger measures in place” such as designating shelters and hotlines as emergency services and support police and the justice sector during lockdowns to better protect women and girls, it said.
Guidance from UNDP, Gender-based violence and COVID-19, also recommends developing new protocols to provide support via phone or online platforms rather than in person, expanding immediate response services in order to save lives, and most ensuring that steps to prevent gender-based violence are in every COVID-19 response plan and budget, said UNDP, the United Nations’ global development network.
“Now more than ever there is a need to send a strong message that violence will not be tolerated, those who carry it out will be brought to justice, and survivors will be heard and supported,” said Raquel Lagunas, acting director of the UNDP gender team.
The impacts of the COVID-19 on women and girls include rising rates of domestic or intimate partner violence, while lockdowns and social distancing may be particularly hard on survivors of gender-based violence, who may already be economically dependent on their abusers.
Together with other UN agencies, UNDP is working with more than 40 governments around the world to prevent and address gender-based violence during the crisis.
UNDP said, by citing an example in Somalia, that UNDP is supporting communities to develop neighborhood watch systems, where men and women receive training to regularly patrol their neighborhood to prevent or mitigate incidents of violence.
In Mexico UNDP, in collaboration with UN Women, is helping establish phone and online platforms to support vulnerable women via the LUNA centers, which are safe spaces for women and girls.
In Botswana, community members, including school principals, tribal chiefs, farmers and nurses, are raising awareness of the rise in violence and advising the government on village challenges and needs.
In Uganda, UNDP in partnership with Jumia Food Uganda, the leading e-commerce company in the country, is exploring how to incorporate messaging to prevent violence against women and girls in an e-commerce platform which connects small and medium-sized enterprises and informal market vendors to customers.
In the Dominican Republic, UNDP and BHD Bank are putting in place a partnership to facilitate referral services of domestic violence cases that are reported by the bank’s customers.
UNDP is coordinating with UN sister agencies and development partners, for example, through the Spotlight Initiative, a joint EU-UN partnership to end violence against women and girls. The global, multi-year initiative is targeting 50 million direct beneficiaries across five regions and more than 25 countries.