United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Sunday urged governments to redress “a horrifying global surge in domestic violence” across the world, as countries imposed unprecedented restrictions on movement of people to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a video message posted on Twitter, Guterres highlighted how a combination of economic and social stresses because of the pandemic, along with other lockdown measures, have dramatically increased the number of women facing domestic abuse, as self-quarantine puts them in perpetual proximity to their abuser.
“Lockdown and quarantine are essential to suppress covid-19, but they can trap women with abusive partners,” he said. “Over the last week as economic pressures have grown we have seen a horrifying surge in domestic violence. In some countries the number of women calling support services have doubled,” he added. “I urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for Covid-19.”
“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest – in their own homes,” Guterres said. “And so I make a new appeal today for peace at home – and in homes – around the world.”
The United Nations chief made recommendations, or “ways to deal” with this surge in domestic violence and urged the governments of the world to follow his suggestions. He said it was necessary to create safe ways for women to seek support without alerting their abusers and stressed on increasing spending on online services and civil society organisations to help women.
He added that emergency warning systems should be set up in pharmacies and groceries for women. Guterres said that governments should declare shelters as essential services to provide women facing abuse protection.
At the same time, he said, healthcare officials, the police are overwhelmed and understaffed, local support groups are paralysed or short of funds, and some domestic violence shelters are closed, while others are full. The UN chief called for the total prevention of violence “everywhere from war zones to people’s homes as we work to beat Covid-19.”
Activists worldwide have reported an alarming rise in domestic violence cases since the start of coronavirus-related quarantines. According to media reports, calls to online services and domestic violence cases have increased in the United States, gender-based violence cases doubled in India during the first week of the countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The National Commission for Women last week expressed concern over the increase in cases of domestic violence as millions of Indians stay home amid a countrywide lockdown. The women’s body received 69 cases of domestic abuse in the first phase of the lockdown between March 24 and April 1, as the government took unprecedented steps to restrict the movement of citizens, commission chairperson Rekha Sharma said.
In United States, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which typically receives up to 2,000 calls per day, counted 951 callers between March 10 and March 24 who mentioned Covid-19 while reporting their abuse, The Guardian reported. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since the lockdown, according to the BBC.