The networks of the U.S. Agency for Global Media are shining a light on what the United Nations calls a “shadow pandemic” of violence against women, especially domestic violence, during COVID-19.
To mark the November 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, USAGM is sharing some of the reporting from our networks on a topic not often reported in many countries.
Voice of America found countries responded quite differently to the shadow pandemic.
As part of Mexico’s coronavirus-response emergency decree, for example, VOA found the government there initially defunded a program that supports domestic violence but restored half of the funding after a public outcry. Mexico’s National Shelter Network reported in May an 80 percent increase in calls for help, VOA said.
In Malawi, where 46% of girls are married before age 18 and 9% before age 15, VOA interviewed the organization People Serving Girls at Risk (PSGR), which said it saw a spike in child marriages when lockdowns began in March.
PSGR Director Caleb Ng’ombo told VOA the increase was likely due to parents thinking that marrying off their daughters would relieve them of a burden during the pandemic. Despite “very cordial” help from government institutions in combating sexual exploitation during the pandemic, VOA said PSGR had to lay off staff because of lack of funding.
And in Russia, VOA found that calls to hotlines spiked, more than doubling from March to April, yet the government reported that the number of domestic violence cases registered by authorities in April 2020 had decreased by 9 percent from a year earlier.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty created an infographic clearly conveying survey results that indicated most Russian women say there is a need for a domestic violence law to protect them at home
USAGM’s Middle East Broadcasting Network reported that while many countries in the Arab region have signed the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, many still maintain discriminatory laws against women that work against the fulfillment of their rights.