Syria

Joint Statement by Muhannad Hadi, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis and Luay Shabaneh, UNFPA Regional Director on 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence

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Amman and Cairo, 9 December 2020

As we mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (GBV), we unequivocally condemn all violence against women and girls impacted by the Syria crisis, including the violence committed against women human rights defenders and women humanitarian workers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

The United Nations and its partners have documented an increase in GBV particularly domestic and family violence, in addition to sexual violence, harassment, and exploitation, with women living with a disability, adolescent girls, older women, or widows and divorced women and girls at greater risk of GBV. In the words of a woman from Idleb: “Women and girls endure violence more than anyone else. The spread of poverty and war and displacement and COVID have made things much worse this year, and women and girls became more subjected to violence by the husband, the father or the brother.”

Violence against women and girls has been further exacerbated by the economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued conflict and large-scale displacement throughout the country. Increased negative coping mechanisms such as child marriage, child labour and sexual exploitation have all been reported. Even more disheartening are reports showing that women human rights defenders and women humanitarian workers in Syria continue to face immense risks, particularly when their work focuses on gender issues and sexual and reproductive rights.

We must ensure that specialized GBV services, including psychosocial support and health services, remain open and receive the funds they need to continue to provide lifelines to women and girls. Women and girls have told us that specialized GBV services, and access to safe spaces, are often the only viable venues for them to receive life-saving services, even if the mitigation measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as lockdowns, have significantly limited access to services and further restricted their freedom of movement. While GBV services are available in 98 per cent (265) of sub-districts in Syria (an increase by 77 per cent since 2015), in reality, it represents only 10 per cent of communities with GBV-specialized services. Moreover, this year saw a drop by 11 per cent in the number of women and girls accessing services due to COVID-19.

We call on all those engaged in the response in Syria to commit to ending GBV and to addressing its root causes. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the risks of GBV are mitigated throughout the response and that strong gender-specific policies and programmes, in line with the Secretary-General’s Political Engagement Strategy on GBV and COVID-19, are implemented. “I really would like to take part in activities that stop violence. And I want my voice to be heard and to reach to everyone that is not aware of what is happening to us girls in Syria” (adolescent girl, Damascus)

For further information, please contact:
Torsten Lajoie Flyng, OCHA Strategic Communications Officer for OCHA Regional Office for the Syria Crisis, torsten.flyng@un.org +962 (0) 798 674 195
Samir Aldarabi, Regional Communication Advisor UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund, Arab States Regional Office aldarabi@unfpa.org Tel: +20 106 8484879

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.