Risk of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating the already pandemic levels of violence women and girls face. It is critical that GBV services continue to be available to women and girls, even as the world changes to try to control transmission.

Key Findings and Recommendations

  • Data shows that in some humanitarian settings, there has been a drastic increase in online searches and requests for help due to gender-based violence (GBV) since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Lebanon, after the implementation of a hotline, IRC saw the number of women and girls seeking support more than double between March and April compared to the first two months of the year.
  • Data also shows that restrictions on mobility, lack of information, increased isolation and fear have led to dramatic decreases in the ability of women and girls to report incidents of violence and seek services. In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where at least 25% of women experienced violence before COVID-19 struck, IRC reported a 50% decrease in reports of GBV between February and March 2020.
  • GBV prevention and response is lifesaving and it is possible to adapt GBV programs to safely deliver these essential services during COVID-19. A number of tactics can be adopted: “going remote”; adopting protocols to comply with social distancing measures that allow Safe Spaces to remain open, GBV case management and psychosocial support to continue, and Dignity Kits to be distributed. Engaging with and through women-led networks is also critical to ensure GBV response services stay open and real-time information on risks reaches women and girls.
  • Less than 1% of the funding request for COVID-19 responses in humanitarian contexts was specified for GBV prevention and response, despite high-level attention to the “shadow pandemic” of violence against women and girls.

Urgent Actions is Needed:

  • Implementing organizations and UN entities must listen and directly respond to what women and girls say they need.
  • Donors and UN entities must insist, and implementing organizations must ensure, every COVID-19 response is informed by a gender analysis.
  • All actors must recognize that the protection crisis is exacerbated by COVID- 19 and make GBV a specific objective of every COVID-19 response plan.
  • Donors must protect existing funds and provide additional flexible and long-term funding for the protection and empowerment of women and girls.
  • Donors should plan to address GBV in recovery and immediate responses.