The United Nations warned on April 20 that displaced and stateless women and girls are at heightened risk of gender-based violence amid the coronavirus pandemic. A UN Refugee Agency official said in a statement that the virus is massive protection risks for women and girls who are forced to flee their homes as the pandemic continues wreaking havoc around the world.
“We need to pay urgent attention to the protection of refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls at the time of this pandemic. They are among those most at-risk,” said Gillian Triggs, the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UNHCR.
As countries have implemented stringent measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, including lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, it has increased the risk of violence inside the confinement of shelters and homes. The UN official said that some of the displaced and stateless women may get trapped with their abusers without the opportunity to distance themselves or to seek in-person support.
“Others, including those without documentation or those who have lost precarious livelihoods, as a result of the economic devastation that COVID-19 has inflicted, may be forced into survival sex or child marriages by their families,” Triggs added.
The UN agency highlighted the difficulty faced by survivors and those at-risk to access life-saving support, and services including safe-shelters that remain temporarily suspended or closed. Triggs said that the network of UNHCR protection staff are on high alert and the life-saving programs for women and girls subjected to violence are being adapted where possible.
“In some locations, they are now being managed remotely by social workers with the support of trained community volunteer networks,” she said.
Earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had called upon governments around the world to take steps in order to curb domestic violence cases which have witnessed a surge amid pandemic. The UN chief made an appeal for “peace at home” around the world emphasising that lockdowns and quarantines are necessary for suppressing the coronavirus, however, it can trap women with abusive partners.
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