Sexual and gender-based violence during COVID-19: lessons from Ebola

The COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster that has severely disrupted the normal functioning of populations around the world and continues to proliferate indiscriminately. Disease outbreaks like COVID-19 threaten the health of all. But women and girls are disproportionately affected. During epidemics, the very measures taken to protect populations and keep health systems afloat leave women and girls especially vulnerable to violence. Sexual and gender-based violence is a hidden consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As communities around the world are forced to stay at home, women and girls are at a heightened risk of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, child abuse, and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Because disasters exacerbate pre-existing gender inequities and power hierarchies, violence in the home may worsen as prolonged quarantine and economic stressors increase tension in the household. Women and girls are isolated from the people and resources that can help them, and they have few opportunities to distance themselves from their abusers. During epidemics, it’s harder for sexual and reproductive health workers to appropriately screen for sexual and gender-based violence. And referral pathways to care are disrupted

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