Systemic and intersectional response needed to counter GBV

The United Nations (UN) defines gender-based violence (GBV) is defined as any act of physical, sexual, economic or psychological harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, perpetrated against a person based on gender differences between males and females, whether in public or private life.

The United Nations (UN) defines gender-based violence (GBV) is defined as any act of physical, sexual, economic or psychological harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, perpetrated against a person based on gender differences between males and females, whether in public or private life.

It is perpetrated against a person or group based on their gender, sex, or non-conformity to gender norms and stereotypes. It is a manifestation of uneven power relations, based on social norms and ideas about dominance, power, and abuse of authority, and formalized by social institution laws, rules, and regulations.

Physical, psychological, and sexual violence, as well as social violence that isolates survivors from their communities or social groups, and economic violence that results in economic deprivation, are all examples of GBV.

GBV is a global epidemic that affects all social groups, yet it has been largely disregarded in COVID-19 response and rehabilitation plans. GBV, including domestic violence and intimate partner violence, has clearly increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but expenditures in GBV prevention and response are woefully inadequate.

Although there are still obstacles to achieving gender justice, such as harmful social norms, progress has been made since the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, demonstrating that there are solutions and that feminist activism has been a driving force for progress in ending gender-based violence.

As the government imposed tight policies to regulate COVID-19, GBV rates began to rise, schools were closed, travel was restricted to citizens and permit holders, big gatherings were prohibited, a national curfew was established, and all flights in and out of the country were halted. Following that, there were reports of rising GBV levels across the country. Sexual violence increased while physical violence increased largely. GBV stakeholders and women's groups have been placing pressure on the government to pay attention to GBV rates and assure the availability of services as a result of growing worries about rising rates of GBV combined with a lack of government action to address the issue.

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, women and girls experienced an unprecedented increase of violence, and women's organizations and frontline responders were quick to raise the alarm. Coronavirus caused a perfect storm of social and personal anxiety, stress, economic pressure, social isolation including isolation from violent family members or partners, and growing alcohol and substance usage in many households, leading to an increase in domestic abuse.

As domestic abuse killings surged during the early lockdowns, calls to domestic violence and GBV helplines skyrocketed. Many people assumed that services were closed, remained away for fear of illness, or were unable to call out for help since their abusers were at home all day keeping track of their phone and internet usage.

Women were frequently obliged to break curfews, lockdowns, or stay-at-home orders outside of their homes owing to their need to earn a job, acquire food and water for their families, or do the care tasks that society disproportionately expects of females, which escalated during the pandemic. They were harassed and beaten up by police and military officers imposing coronavirus control measures like roadblocks, quarantines, and curfews.

Some forms of violence have shifted from physical to virtual areas, with reports of increased cyberstalking, bullying, and sexual harassment. Similarly, the GBV that women and girls are subjected to tends to be more severe and long-lasting, possibly as a result of the increased difficulties in escaping abuse. According to reports, callers are claiming an increase in bites, burns, repeated beatings, and continual pressure from their partners to have unwanted sex.

What can be done?

To curb the increase in the Gender based violence, the government and other actors should:

First, build economies that increase GBV resilience: Inequality and resilience to GBV will increase or decrease depending on how countries manage their economic reaction and recovery in the face of COVID-19. Women's labour should be recognized and fairly compensated in all forms, particularly the low-paid and unpaid care work they disproportionately shoulder, such as caring for children, the sick, and the old. Governments and other actors should do the following:

  • Ensure that the costs of GBV are not borne disproportionately by survivors by mobilizing resources to alleviate inequities.
  • Create social protection systems that operate as safety nets for people who are victims of abuse, expand them to include informal workers and unpaid and low-paid careers, and ensure that the poorest women and girls have good earnings.
  • Implement gender-responsive budgeting to promote gender equity, a more equitable distribution of resources, and redistributive policies that eliminate gender disparities and mitigate the economic effects of discrimination.
  • Address abuse and exploitation directed at women in low-wage, precarious jobs, especially by supporting their ability to join unions.
  • Encourage the expansion of social protection and public services by increasing debt cancellation ties and offer accessible, affordable public services, particularly through fair taxation.

Secondly, women's and feminist organizations and movements should be strengthened and resourced: GBV is preventable, and women's groups and movements have shown that, given the chance, they are best positioned to reverse the tide against it by:

  • Immediately designate GBV prevention and response services as vital and eligible for rapid response financing by governments and other entities.
  • Provide feminist movements and groups working to abolish GBV and support survivors with proportional multi-year, flexible funding.
  • Increase the equal and meaningful representation of women in the planning and delivery of services by including women's and LGBTQIA+ organizations in decision-making settings.
  • Collaborate with women's organizations and human rights advocates to establish safety measures.

The journey is still long:

In many regions of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic and policies enacted to prevent it are exposing gender-based structural disparities and straining already weakened health and social protection systems. COVID-19 containment methods, like past pandemic containment tactics, increased the exposure of women and girls, particularly those who were difficult to reach, to various kinds of GBV.

While GBV was on the rise in the country in the early months of the pandemic, the government's failure to include GBV services and programs in the COVID-19 response had a significant impact on the availability of essential services for survivors, such as health care, shelters, and access to justice, as well as preventive services.

The government's response to GBV was reactive rather than proactive, with problems being addressed as they arose in various industries. In the end, this haphazard approach has wreaked havoc on Kenyan women and girls, some of whom may never fully recover from their ordeals. With appropriate planning and the provision of robust and comprehensive GBV services and social protection mechanisms, this could have been averted.

Print   Email