By Vanly Keomuda
When I was young, I remembered hearing my mom talking silently about how our neighbour had hit his wife again after their intense argument. I used to ask why we did not try to help our neighbour and the response that I got was that it was their domestic conflict; therefore, as an outsider we could not intervene. Although I said nothing further at the time, I did not understand how a husband could lay his hand on his wife and why we could not help when we have witnessed the violence in front of us.
My neighbour was not the only woman that had experienced domestic violence from her partner. According toUN Women, globally, one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence by their intimate partners and most prefer not to report nor call for help against the violence.
While the number of women experiencing violence was already high before the pandemic, during COVID-19, it was reported that there has been a spike in domestic violence cases globally. For example, in China, the number of domestic violence cases reported to a police station in Jingzhou has tripled after the COVID-19 outbreak compared to the previous year. Studies have found that the increase in violence against women during COVID-19 has been attributed to stress and the fear of economic losses. Furthermore, in many places around the world, people are encouraged to stay at home or remain under lock down. Women with abusive partners become trapped and have little to no contact with the family and friends that could provide support and protection for them.
Theimpact of domestic violence does not only have physical impacts, mental and emotional too. It can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress, and other forms of anxiety. The impact of domestic violence can have an impact on children growing up in that environment, leading them to suffer from behavioural and emotional disturbance, sometimes perpetrating or experiencing violence later in life.
With these consequences in mind, in celebration of the International Day of the Girl 2020, to help women and girls live free from gender-based violence, especially under the current global pandemic climate, we, as a neighbour, a community, and a nation, must join together in combatting violence against women by:
1. Acting and Reporting: if you have witnessed or under the suspicion that people you know are experiencing domestic violence, do not stay still, provide support and help to them as well as staying connected with the women. For women who are experiencing violence, please reach out to the supportive family and friends as well as seeking support from a hotline and shelter to leave the house immediately when violence occurs.
2. Raising Awareness: While the community members and women who are experiencing violence are seeking out for help, health facilities and involved stakeholders should also make sure that the information and available services for survivors are accessible and could provide a swift response. This includes providing a 24/7 hotline, increasing the shelter facilities, and identifying if the services can be offered remotely.
3. Supporting Research: to make progress against domestic violence in the future, more research should be conducted on domestic violence. This also includes gathering a more accurate data on the cases of violence against women, including reported and unreported cases, especially during the Covid-19 environment.
Let’s not let COVID-19 take back our freedom. It is up to us to stand up and help women.
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