In 2020, COVID-19 touched our lives in nearly every way, everywhere, as countries went into lockdown and restricted movement to contain the spread of the virus. As doors closed and isolation began, reports of all forms of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, began to rise.
The pandemic of violence against women is not new. Even before COVID-19 hit us, globally, 243 million women and girls were abused by their intimate partners in the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the violence, even as support services faltered and accessing help became harder.
As we mark the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign (25 November — 10 December), UN Women is joining hands with survivors, activists, decision-makers, the UN system, and people from every walk of life, to shine a light on the need for funding, essential services, prevention and data that shapes better-informed responses.
Ending violence against women is everyone’s business.
Here are just ten ways you can make a difference, safely and impactfully.
1. Listen to and believe survivors
When a woman shares her story of violence, she takes the first step to breaking the cycle of abuse. It’s on all of us to give her the safe space she needs to speak up and be heard.
It’s important to remember that when discussing cases of sexual violence, a victim’s sobriety, clothes, and sexuality are irrelevant. The perpetrator is the sole reason for assault and must bear the responsibility alone. Call out victim-blaming and counter the idea that it’s on women to avoid situations that might be seen as “dangerous” by traditional standards.
Survivors of violence are speaking out more than ever before, and everyone has a role to play to ensure they can have justice.
Don’t say, “Why didn’t she leave?”
Do say: “We hear you. We believe you. We stand with you.”
2. Teach the next generation and learn from them
The examples we set for the younger generation shape the way they think about gender, respect and human rights. Start conversations about gender roles early on, and challenge the traditional features and characteristics assigned to men and women. Point out the stereotypes that children constantly encounter, whether in the media, on the street or at the school, and let them know that it’s OK to be different. Encourage a culture of acceptance.
Talk about consent, bodily autonomy and accountability to boys and girls, and also listen to what they have to say about their experience of the world. By empowering young advocates with information, and educating them about women’s rights, we can build a better future for all.
3. Call for responses and services fit for purpose
Services for survivors are essential services. This means that shelters, hotlines, counseling and all support for survivors of gender-based violence need to be available for those in need, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
Every year, the 16 Days of Activism campaign calls for united, global action to end all forms of violence against women and girls. This year the United Nations, together with our partners, are demanding four critical actions, summarized by our 2020 campaign theme: FUND, RESPOND, PREVENT, COLLECT.
Join us in calling on governments to bridge funding gaps to address violence against women and girls, ensure essential services for survivors of violence are maintained during this crisis, implement prevention measures, and invest in collecting the data necessary to adapt and improve life-saving services for women and girls.
4. Understand consent
Freely given, enthusiastic consent is mandatory, every time.
Rather than listening for a “no,” make sure there is an active “yes,” from all involved. Adopt enthusiastic consent in your life and talk about it.
Phrases like “she was asking for it” or “boys will be boys” attempt to blur the lines around sexual consent, placing blame on victims, and excusing perpetrators from the crimes they have committed.