Updated: Dec 10, 2020
COVID-19 has been affecting communities all over the world, and it's important to remember how victims of gender based violence are impacted. With less opportunities to socialize and visit community spaces, GBV victims can be more isolated than ever. A recent Forbes article provided insights into how the virus correlates with GBV factors.
"Research has found that the COVID-19 lockdown could beseriously detrimental to ending gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and child marriages. Sexual and reproductive services have been stripped back, gender-based violence hotlines have seen an increase in calls globally and disruptions in education and preventative services means millions of girls could be at risk of FGM. The United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency stated that the COVID-19 pandemic could have serious and long-lasting consequences for women’s health" (Broster, 2020).
How can we better understand the root of gender based violence in the midst of this pressing time? As we look at GBV, there is a strong relationship between honor cultures, strong patriarchal society structures, and violence against women. It is important to look at how these overarching cultural norms and belief systems affect a society as a whole and can create larger conflict. Select South Sudan studies demonstrate the intersection between patriarchal belief systems, “inherited culture,” gender based violence, and larger state conflicts:
“Recent research in South Sudan has identified a number of additional indirect drivers of violence that appear to be affecting rates of violence, and particularly violence within homes during times of conflict. These additional drivers of violence against women and girls (VAWG) include increases in economic insecurity and criminality, displacement, the normalisation of violence and a breakdown of the rule of law. When examining these drivers of VAWG, it appears that there’s considerable overlap between these and drivers of wider conflict in South Sudan" (Reeve, 2012).
In places with higher political, economic, and social stress levels, GBV rates can be significantly higher. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded existing stress factors. Furthermore, the attitudes and approaches countries hold towards the female gender can be associated with contention towards other countries. “When in patriarchal societies, men in the family dominate the women, this oppressive othering serves as a template for how other ‘others,’ such as political opponents and ethnic and religious minorities, are treated” (Mason & Mitchell, 203). Gender inequality and GBV is a symptom of a larger issue; when power dynamics are unbalanced, problems can spread to various areas of a society. “At its core, VAWG is a product of unequal gender dynamics and patriarchal practices, and is a manifestation of unequal power between men and women” (Swaine et al., 2017).
Broster, A. (2020, May 01). Coronavirus Is Seriously Impacting FGM & Gender-Based Violence. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicebroster/2020/05/01/coronavirus-is-seriously-impacting-fgm--gender-based-violence/
Mason, Thomas David, and Sara McLaughlin. Mitchell. What Do We Know about Civil Wars? Lanham (Md.): Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.
Reeve, R. (2012). Peace and Conflict Assessment of South Sudan. London: International Alert.
Swaine, Aisling, Michelle Spearing, Maureen Murphy, and Manuel Contreras. Intersections of Violence against Women and Girls with State-building and Peace-building: Lessons from Nepal, Sierra Leone and South Sudan. Report. Global Women's Institute, George Washington University. 1-101.