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24. November 2020

Covid-19 and violence against women: preventive measures should go hand in hand

Press Release: Cologne, November 23, 2020. On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25., medica mondiale is calling for more support for local women’s organisations – both during and after the pandemic.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, women’s rights organisations around the world reacted and adapted their work within weeks. Especially in conflict areas, local women’s organisations helped to curb the pandemic in general and to provide assistance to women affected by violence in particular. There is an urgent need for more political recognition of and financial support for this work supporting survivors of violence,” says Monika Hauser, founder and Executive Board Member of medica mondiale.

Covid-19: Increased risk of violence against women and girls

“Many women’s organisations were able to ensure assistance and sanitary products could be provided to safe houses, hospitals, police and social centres. Women’s organisations and other civil society actors around the world have stepped in where governments failed,” explains Aleksandra Nestorov, an activist at our partner organisation Autonomous Women’s Center in Serbia.

As early as Spring 2020 medica mondiale was urgently warning about the specific risks and consequences of the pandemic for women and girls. Isolating at home with perpetrators of violence and reduced access to offers of aid and support were directly increasing the risk of women being subjected to violence worldwide.

Reactions to Covid-19 ignored the situation of women

“In spite of the warnings and initial evidence of an increase in violence against women, politicians failed to sufficiently consider the situation of women and girls. Hardly any governments prioritised measures to prevent gender-specific violence within their measures against the pandemic,” says Monika Hauser. State-run contact points were left with too few staff or even shut completely. Activ-ists in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, reported that the police there were no longer follow-ing up complaints of domestic violence because officers were too busy enforcing curfews.

Ms Hauser states: “It has been far too common to see public authorities and politicians ignoring the expertise and needs of local women’s rights organisations when deciding pandemic-related measures.” Initial studies by international organisations reveal how reaction plans were more likely to ignore the situation of women where they were drawn up by crisis teams with fewer women members.

Local women’s rights organisations are hardly benefitting from any extra funding or other support to ensure relief and self-care for their staff, in spite of the significant extra burden they experience carrying out their very practical local work in the face of high levels of infections and illness.


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