Hope in a Time of Pandemic Issue Spotlight 9 –Violence
The global pandemic has highlighted not just a health crisis, but also a social, political, environmental and economic crisis. ’Hope in a Time of Pandemic: Responding to COVID -19 through a Mercy Lens’ has revealed a number of significant issues that have come to the fore. One of these issues is violence, and in particular, violence against women and girls. This is the focus of Spotlight Report 9.
What has been revealed in terms of Violence?
Family violence, already a significant global problem prior to the pandemic, has been exacerbated during this time. As many community services and educational institutions have closed and families have been rendered isolated due to lockdown measures, the experience of family violence has increased across the globe. Perpetrators of violence are seen to be taking advantage of this isolation and separation.
Likewise, there is seen to be a greater risk of human trafficking as loss of employment, increased poverty, lockdowns, travel restrictions and online interactions leave women and girls more vulnerable to being coerced by traffickers. Advocates such as Mercy Efforts for Child Protection against trafficking with the Hospitality and Service Sectors (MECPATHS) argue for more collaboration and conversation about these increasing hidden realities. In ‘Hope in a Time of Pandemic’, a Mercy Sister in Newfoundland reflected on the greater risk of human trafficking due to COVID-19. She claimed, “As the number of cases of this pandemic increase, so does the disease which accompanies it. We have heard interviews from women who are being offered sex-for-rent from their male landlords. COVID-19 is empowering domestic violence abusers as numbers of incidents rise within our province. Women are at increased risk while isolating at home. Social workers are concerned as fewer calls to women’s sexual assault services doesn’t mean fewer incidents…Advocates want more collaboration and conversation with governments about solutions in respect to the surge of abuse rates.”
Girl children are also at higher risk of exploitation. This is because the longer they are out of school, the less likely it is they will return. This is especially true in places where economic struggles are rife and women and girls feel compelled to earn money for their families. UN experts have also expressed concerns of child labour and child marriage, and call on States to increase child protection measures during the pandemic.
The Mercy World continues to be of service to vulnerable populations, especially women who are experiencing violence
As the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence are soon to begin, we encourage the Mercy World to be part of the action for change. As outlined in ‘Hope in a Time of Pandemic’, the Mercy World continues to strive to eliminate gender-based violence and human trafficking by addressing the lack of prevention, access to services and other social protections. The Mercy World seeks to empower women and girls to strengthen their capacities to claim their rights. Through individual, local, national and global mobilization we can challenge harmful gender narratives that justify violence against women and stigmatize survivors. Like Catherine McAuley, we will continue to work with women and girls to form a just and inclusive world.
What are we being called to?
- Participate in Mercy Global Action advocacy actions for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. If you are on Twitter, engage with us @MIAGlobalAction
- Raise the plight of women and girls in all efforts to address the socio-economic impact of COVID-19
- Safeguard access to justice, counselling and safe shelters for victims of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and human trafficking by ensuring that these are considered essential services during the pandemic (SDG’s 5, 8, 16).
- Eliminate harmful stereotypes that perpetuate gender-based violence, domestic abuse, human trafficking and the unequal burden of unpaid domestic and care work (SDG 5).
- Stand with and pray for all those who face discrimination and violence.
Messages to Siobhan Golden - MGA Intern