Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19: The complexities of responding to “The Shadow Pandemic”, May 2020

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I. Gender-based Violence (GBV) During Times of Crisis

During times of crisis, women and girls face an increased risk of exposure to gender-based violence (GBV). Although GBV is known to be pervasive in all settings, emergencies disrupt existing protective structures and create multiple circumstances than can lead to various forms of violence, abuse, and exploitation. In spite of increased global awareness of the need to address GBV in in crisis-affected settings, its prevalence is difficult to determine, in light of the large number of cases that go unreported, as well as the limited resources often in place for gathering this type of evidence in emergency contexts. Experiencing GBV has been associated with a host of negative health, psychosocial, and developmental outcomes in the lives of survivors—both in the short-term as well as the long-term. In light of these issues, GBV prevention, response, and risk mitigation represent essential and life-saving components of proposed interventions. While there are multiple drivers that contribute to GBV, it is rooted in gender inequalities at the societal level, as well as harmful social norms that discriminate against women and girls. These inequalities are often exacerbated by emergencies, exposing women and girls to unique risks and vulnerabilities. As a result of these issues, it is crucial for prevention and response interventions to address the gendered dimensions of crises, and seek to promote gender equality and transformation. In emergency settings and beyond, women and girls are often among those first to respond to GBV, and possess vital knowledge and skills in order to ensure that cases can be prevented and responded to effectively. As a result, the voices and meaningful participation of women and girls are essential in order for them to shape the course of responsive action, and ensure that it can be done in a way that is relevant, contextualized, and sustainable.