Issue V: Maintaining services for survivors of violence against women and girls during COVID-19
Building on the second Gender Alert on COVID-19, on Ensuring Access to Services for Survivors of Violence Against Women and Girls, UN Women issues this fifth alert to continue to highlight the gender specific impacts of COVID-19 in Afghanistan. This alert provides guidance for service providers operating during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to safely provide critical services to survivors of violence against women and girls. It highlights the need for service providers to implement strict measures to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 spreading to be able to continue to operate safely and maintain services that are essential for survivors of violence.
This alert concludes with a set of preliminary recommendations for consideration by different stakeholders who are seeking to improve the quality of and access to coordinated and multi-sectoral services for all women and girls. UN Women Afghanistan is committed to advancing the rights of, and meeting the needs of women and girls, including through the COVID-19 crisis. This alert serves to advance this aim, by providing a basis for an informed discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on violence against women and girls (VAWG) service provision.
CONTEXT & EMERGING GENDER IMPACTS
Reports indicate that violence against women and girls (VAWG), particularly domestic violence, has increased during COVID-19. In contexts where movement is restricted, people are confined, poverty and unemployment are increasing, and protection and health systems are weak, women and girls are at greater risk of experiencing gender-based violence. Lockdowns and quarantine measures mean that many women are confined with their abusers, with limited options for seeking help and support.
This is particularly true in Afghanistan, where women have already limited access to essential services. Life-saving care and support to VAWG survivors may be disrupted when front-line service providers and systems, such as health, policing and social welfare, are overburdened and focused on handling COVID-19 cases. Despite lack of data in Afghanistan, emerging evidence shows that, with the COVID-19 crisis, the number of women and girls experiencing violence, more particularly domestic violence, has increased in all provinces of Afghanistan.