In Francophone Africa and around the world, GBV is intensifying in COVID-19’s wake, a “shadow pandemic” for which there is no vaccine. It will affect millions of women and girls, compounding COVID-19’s already corrosive impact on gender equality (a key Sustainable Development Goal), as well as social mobility, human rights, and sustainable development.
GBV is prevalent in every country in the world, but data show that women and girls living in low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately impacted. Harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) threaten decades of progress.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, a spike in GBV has increased domestic violence helpline calls five-fold in many countries. Lockdowns have confined women and girls at home with their abusers. Overwhelmed health and legal services have shifted priorities or closed indefinitely. This reduction in services creates nearly impossible hurdles for those seeking protection from abuse.
Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have had devastating economic consequences for households. In 2020 alone, the pandemic led to the loss of 255 million jobs worldwide. The resulting spike in household poverty has put a serious economic strain on families, leading many to make the devastating choice of having their daughters married early to ease their financial burdens. Besides economic hardship, a lack of legal protections and decreased access to education are also driving up child marriage in the Middle East and North Africa, especially among Syrian refugee girls.
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