Home violence during quarantine prompts launch of GBV campaign
Our home is supposedly our haven. Sadly for some, it is where violence begins.
With over half the world still in lockdown, about four billion people are staying home as their way to protect themselves from COVID-19. As being at home is a protective measure, it, however, brings danger to others – domestic violence against women.
GBV at home
Records show that even before the pandemic, domestic violence has always been one of the most significant human rights violations. It has been reported that in the previous 12 months, 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world were subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, this number is likely to grow with multiple impacts on women’s well-being, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, and ability to participate and lead in the recovery of our society’s economy.
Comprehensive under-reporting of domestic and other forms of violence has previously made responses and data gathering a challenge, with less than 40 percent of women who experience violence seeking help of any sort or reporting the crime. Less than 10 percent of those women seeking help go to the police.
GBV during pandemic
“Government data shows that the number of cases of GBV and abuse reported to authorities declined during the first month and a half of COVID-19 lockdown measures,” said Danna Aduna of Lunas Collective, a feminist, inclusive chat service where people seeking support related to gender-based violence (GBV) and reproductive health can expect to be heard. “While these figures could mean a reduced prevalence of violence and abuse, it more likely points to something more problematic–that victims are unable to report abuse, partly due to the quarantine measures themselves but also possibly due to their home setup. What this means is that it’s highly likely that the quarantine breeds situations that make it more difficult, if not impossible, for a victim-survivor to report crimes done against them.”
In the Philippines, the National Demographic Health Survey 2017 released by the Philippine Statistics Authority revealed that one in four Filipino women experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence from their husbands or partners.
FamiLigtas to end GBV
In the same survey, the top three perpetrators, as reported by women who experienced/were experiencing GBV were revealed to be the victim’s current husband/partner (40%); former husband/partner (27%); or other relatives (8.9%). Additionally, according to data from the Philippine National Police, an average of eight people a day have fallen victim to sexual assault in the country during the community quarantine.
This problematic situation where stay-at-home measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19 is potentially leading to unreported cases of GBV that has prompted the creation of FamiLigtas. This campaign seeks to build awareness among women, children, gender non-conforming, and non-binary individuals and the public about GBV in the home.
Families safe from violence
At its core, FamiLigtas seeks to educate and spread awareness about the reality of GBV within the family and the home. FamiLigtas works closely with Lunas Collective, offering psycho-social support and appropriate information for authorities and health facilities. Lunas understands that the pandemic has caused stress for many Filipino families and that this has exacerbated GBV situations for many others who are stuck at home. Still, Aduna was quick to point out the importance of disabusing GBV victim-survivors. “Any stressful situation is not an excuse for any violence,” she said.
For FamiLigtas, the concept of family extends beyond the home. This is why a big thrust of the campaign is to go beyond awareness and encourage help-seeking behavior by promoting other support systems in place within their local communities.
“Gender-based violence starts at home, which is why protection should also start at home,” said Karen Davila, Filipino journalist and staunch advocate for women’s rights.