Covid 19 increases the risk of violence against women in Arab states

Nearly 89,000 women and girls were intentionally killed (femicide) in 2022, marking the highest yearly number in the past two decades. This alarming figure comes despite an overall drop in homicides, said a new research brief from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UN Women.

Women in the Arab states are facing an increased risk of violence from their husbands because of COVID-19, with less than 40 per cent seeking help of any sort or reporting the crime, according to the UN.

In most of the Arab countries, the women reported the feeling to be unsafe in their homes, the UN said in a preliminary study – The Effects of Covid -19 on Violence Against Women and Gendered Social Norms.  The UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States held the study in nine countries in the region, namely Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen.

The report said that slightly more women than men reported feeling unsafe in their homes. “Among those who reported feeling unsafe, at least 1 in 5 women in the surveyed countries expressed being afraid of domestic violence (by spouse or family member) at the exception of one country (Lebanon) where the proportion was lower (15 percent),”  the report said.

Jordan and Palestine was reported to have a higher fear of domestic violence with at least one in three women expressing fear. Stating that witnessing or knowing a person subjected to violence can also cause emotional distress, the study said that they came across more women than men of having witnessed or knowing a woman who have been subjected to violence.

The UN said that online harassment was the most reported type of violence against women in all the countries. When 42 per cent of the women in Egypt reported of knowing or witnessing online harassment against a woman, Lebanon was the least likely to report that (24 percent), the study said.

The preliminary findings also show that Coronavirus has increased the burden of unpaid care and domestic work for both men and women in the region. It said that domestic tasks such as cleaning, cooking and serving meals were almost found to be the responsibility of women. The other unpaid care responsibilities were distributed a little more evenly, particularly among married respondents, the UN said.

When women were found to be in charge of physical care of children, men were seen to provide teaching support.  In addition, men were seen to be spending more time in caring for elderly, disabled or sick household members. Majority of married women told the survey that that their husbands were more involved in housework since the pandemic.

Noting that under reporting of domestic and other forms of violence has always been a challenge, the study notes that less than 40 percent of women sought help of any sort or reporting the crime. “The lockdown measures have made the situation more difficult,” the study said.

The study said that majority of the people in the nine countries opined that addressing violence against women should be a priority even during the COVID-19 outbreak”. The people who had a bachelor’s degree or higher and those living in big cities and married said that violence against women should be given priority. However, a considerable proportion of the people agreed that “a woman should tolerate domestic violence to keep her family together, especially in these difficult times”.



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