An alarming view of what the future could hold for millions of women and girls across the world has been revealed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). An analysis of the human cost of the novel coronavirus pandemic estimates that a continued lockdown could result in a “catastrophic impact” on the rights and health of women and girls, if immediate efforts are not taken.
A staggering 31 million cases of gender-based violence are being predicted as a result of six months of lockdowns. Also, seven million additional unintended pregnancies are projected to arise due to lack of access to modern contraception in low and middle-income countries.
In the worst-case scenario, where the pandemic-induced service disruption lasts for a whole year, lack of access to modern contraceptives could result in 15 million unintended pregnancies.
“The pandemic is deepening inequalities, and millions more women and girls now risk losing the ability to plan their families and protect their health,” said Dr Natalia Kanem, UNFPA’s Executive Director.
Loss of family planning measures and access to contraception are, however, not the only worries. In light of the global pandemic, which has forced several countries across the world to impose strict lockdowns, women and girls also risk a stark rise in the cases of domestic violence. With movement restricted and most women being trapped indoors with their abusers, predictions indicate that there could be a steep increase in the acts of violence.
“During the curfew period, I have met a lot of women who face violence by their husbands,” said Ghadeer Mohammed Ibrahim Qara Bulad, the Director of the Women’s Development Project at the Islamic Charitable Association (ICA). The ICA works closely with the UNFPA in Homs, Syria.
“I saw a woman being beaten by her husband during the curfew, as the husband lost his job and the woman was unable to control their nine children,” Bulad told UNFPA.
Bulad’s account resonates with the situation in India as well. The National Commission for Women in the country reported a drastic spike in the number of domestic violence cases – a total of 587 complaints were registered between March 23 and April 16 – indicating a similar crisis that the UNFPA predicts for women and girls in case of a prolonged lockdown.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)