The coronavirus pandemic has made women feel more vulnerable to abuse, sexual harassment and violence, which is in turn harming their mental health and emotional well-being, according to a report by U.N. Women, a United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality.
Forty-five percent of women surveyed in 13 countries reported that they or a woman they knew had experienced a form of violence since the start of the pandemic, and the women who said this were 1.3 times more likely than the others surveyed to report greater mental and emotional stress.
The surveys defined violence against women to include physical abuse; verbal abuse; the denial of basic needs like health care, food and shelter; the denial of communication with other people, including being forced to stay alone for long periods of time; and sexual harassment.
The countries surveyed were Albania, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay, Thailand and Ukraine. U.N. Women said that the countries had been selected based on regional diversity, with priority given to low- and middle-income nations that were implementing the organization’s programs.
The report was released ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which falls on Thursday and begins an annual 16-day campaign of activism against gender-based violence.
Among the report’s findings:
Four in 10 women said they felt more unsafe in public spaces.
One in four said that household conflicts had become more frequent, and the same proportion felt more unsafe in their home.
Seven in 10 said that they thought verbal or physical abuse by a partner had become more common.
Six in 10 said they thought sexual harassment in public had worsened.
Three in 10 said they thought that violence against women in their community had increased.
“The Covid-19 pandemic, which necessitated isolation and social distancing, enabled a second, shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls, where they often found themselves in lockdown with their abusers,” said Sima Bahous, the executive director of U.N. Women and a former Jordanian ambassador. “Our new data underlines the urgency of concerted efforts to end this.”