Beyond the Shadow Pandemic: A Pandemic within a Pandemic
By Anushree Anantharaman
TW: Description of violence, domestic violence
Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten!
How many of us can even begin to picture being housed with an abuser around the clock while always being in terror of what he or—in rarer cases—she would do next to injure you? How would you feel if, for no reason at all, your partner repeatedly verbally abused you, starved you, or even prevented you from using the restroom? Or if you were expelled from your home because you were thought to be suffering from Covid-19 symptoms? Even while it is essential to the fight against the pandemic, staying at home alone gives the abuser more influence. Additionally, it has destroyed social networks, making it much harder for victims to receive assistance or flee.
We live in a postmodern world ripped apart by war and humanitarian crisis, as well as a pervasive culture of discrimination and bullying based on gender. It is so unfortunate that the sub-human behaviour of “humanity” manifests itself in the most horrific ways every day in a society of unmatched depravity and patriarchal hypocrisy. But because of the conservative societal attitude that underpins our upbringing, such harrowing accounts of abuse are typically cloaked in a climate of silence. Silence instructs us to put up with predatory threats and suffering since the words “stigma” and “fear” enormously outweigh our conscience. But how long would we continue to muffle the abused people’s cries? How much longer will we continue to ignore it all since speaking up against such threats would require us to leave our luxurious comfort zones? Domestic violence affects people of all ages, genders, religions, social backgrounds, educational degrees and sexual orientations; so, it’s important to understand the different types of domestic violence/abuse.
There are four types of domestic abuse:
1. Physical assault, such as hitting and pushing
2. Sexual assault, such as having sex without permission
3. Financial misconduct, such as hindering someone from finding work
4. Psychological or emotional abuse, such as threatening behaviour or swearing
In 2020 and 2021, domestic violence increased dramatically all across the world, prompting the United Nations to refer to it as the “shadow pandemic,” a pandemic within a pandemic. Its lasting effects are seen even today in 2022. Domestic violence complaints have increased by 2.5 times since India’s nationwide lockdown started, according to official data from the National Commission for Women (NCW), and its effects are still being felt today. One in three women worldwide experiences physical or sexual abuse at the hands of intimate partners. Additionally, it can exist in a variety of partnerships, including marriages, cohabitation, courtship, and dating.
Prior to the epidemic, 243 million women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 had recently been subjected to physical or sexual abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. New information and stories from those who are actually experiencing the violence suggest that since the COVID-19 epidemic, all types of violence against women and girls—including domestic abuse—have escalated. We must all cooperate to stop the Shadow Pandemic from spreading due to the COVID-19 issue. Key services, like domestic violence shelters and helplines, reached their capacity as COVID-19 cases put additional strain on the healthcare system.
Globally, the gender gap grew wider as a result of Covid-19, as violence against women increased dramatically. Intimate partner violence increased by 7% in the United Kingdom and by 30% in France, according to health line indicators. Studies from the UN Women show that no nation was safe from the shadow pandemic. Girls’ education was further affected as schools went online because they were married off at earlier ages, making them more vulnerable to abuse.
Steps to prevent it:
1. Ensure that victims of violence and those at risk of violence have access to comprehensive support, including high-quality medical care, psychosocial aid, judicial and legal services, safe havens, and financial aid.
2. Advocate for the political, social, and economic emancipation of women and girls. This includes funding initiatives for economic empowerment and sustainable livelihoods, social safety nets and safety nets for women and girls, and equal access to a safe and just education for both boys and girls. Importantly, this also entails encouraging women and girls to take the lead and actively participate in decision-making at all levels, where they are currently noticeably missing.
3. Back policies, programmes, and initiatives that advance gender equality in social norms, attitudes, and behaviours as well as those that deal with the underlying causes of violence. Men, boys, community leaders, and other members of the community must actively participate in opposing and altering patriarchal attitudes, behaviours, and beliefs that excuse violence against women. The Indashyikirwa programme, run by CARE and partners in Rwanda, is an illustration of how this might be effective. It reduced the rate of intimate partner violence by 55% among women by combining a VSLA approach with couples workshops intended to address harmful norms and household power imbalances.
4. Trusted community members must continue to raise awareness, maintain safe contact with survivors, and covertly provide guidance and support. In order to guarantee that women can get the post-violence care they require, which must be offered at all levels of care, formal and informal networks of solidarity and support are crucial.
5. Sometimes, a marriage or other relationship is not simply meant to be, so walk away if it is not working. It might be more respectable to end the relationship entirely if you’ve explored every possibility and realised that the two of you are not compatible rather than resorting to domestic abuse and violence. You may both move on and try to explore new relationships while there is still time by doing this.
- Globally, 1 in 3 women had experienced physical or sexual abuse, primarily by an intimate partner, even before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
- Since the COVID-19 outbreak, more people have called domestic abuse hotlines worldwide, according to recent data.
- On the streets, in public places, and online, women continue to experience sexual harassment and other types of assault.
- Few survivors have access to support services, and even fewer are aware of the support networks that are available.
- Some nations have shifted funds and personnel from the fight against violence against women to provide emergency COVID-19 relief.
- Intimate partner violence, as well as other types of coercive control and/or physical harm, are reported by almost 2 in 5 transgender people.
- Tackling the shadow Pandemic of rising domestic violence- The New Indian Express
- SPECON – The rise of domestic abuse and femicide in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic (dsamun.gr)
- The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19 | UN Women – Headquarters
- Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Violence and Firearms – Center for American Progress
- Take action: 10 ways you can help end violence against women, even during a pandemic | UN Women – Headquarters