Dubai: Domestic violence and social challenges faced by women and girls in the Arab region have worsened after the outbreak of COVID-19, a new policy brief by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) said.
“Domestic violence has increased in the world and the Arab region with lockdowns, enforced co-existence due to quarantines, economic stress, perceived and real food insecurity, and fears about exposure to the virus,” ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti said on Monday, Xinhua news agency reported.
Female survivors of violence will face increased difficulties in accessing help during the pandemic, Dashti said.
“Violence is not confined to the battlefield,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement and video published on his official Twitter page.
“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest. In their own homes.”
Guterres urged governments to set up emergency warning systems in pharmacies and groceries to help “women to seek support, without alerting their abuser.”
“Together, we can and must prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people’s homes, as we work to beat COVID-19.”
Within households, women often assume the role of informal healthcare providers and caretakers, which results in them being emotionally and physically exhausted, further increasing those risks.
In a video that has since gone viral, a Jordanian woman pleads for help after a nationwide coronavirus lockdown trapped her with her abusive family.
“My son and I are always hit, and they kept threatening to report me if I run away,” Eman Al Khatib said in a video posted on social media.
Despite losing her job and being unable to find a new one due to the restrictions on movements in Jordan, the 36-year-old said that she could no longer escape the abuse inflicted on her by her mother and brothers.
In the video, Al Khatib called on authorities and women’s rights activists to take action and stop the violence that she had suffered from for years.
Since the video was posted, the Jordanian Women’s Union managed to get Al Khatib and her son out of their abusive home.
Al Khatib’s case mirrors the stories of dozens of women across the world as the global pandemic leaves victims of domestic violence stuck at home and more vulnerable to abuse, with a rise in the number of reported cases.