Global campaign to end domestic violence, worse with COVID-19

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BRUSSELS – In a global campaign to end violence against women, activists held rallies on Wednesday and world leaders called for action to end the abuse, which has worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic this year. Protests from France to Ukraine were held on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to draw attention to domestic violence in what is a bitter fight to protect millions of women killed or mistreated each year by their partners and close relatives.

In Rome, the Prime Minister’s office was lit with red and red banners dropped from trade union offices in Florence to demand an end to violence against women. Italy has been a hotbed of COVID-19 infections this year, forcing the government to impose lockdowns to prevent the virus from entering. As a result, cases of domestic violence began to increase.

“Due to the restrictions, we have unintentionally created deep distress,” which has led to an increase in episodes of domestic violence and femicide, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said during a parliamentary discussion on the long-standing issue of Italy with violence against women.

Italy’s health ministry, citing data from the national statistics agency ISTAT, said calls to domestic violence hotlines increased during the lockdown, registering a 75% increase over the same period in 2019 Between March and June, calls and texts to anti-the number of violence more than doubled during the same period, to 119.6%

With Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Conte signed a joint declaration pledging to speed up measures to end violence against women, which they called an “invisible pandemic”.

Even though detailed statistics are hard to come by, organizations and countries, from the United Nations to the European Union, France and Britain, all say the pandemic has so far been a further source for men to abuse women.

In Ukraine, the feminist activist group Femen staged a protest outside the president’s office with a brief topless protest.

“We want to illustrate the situation of women’s rights in Ukrainian society – without protection against any violence. We believe that violence against women is a violation of human rights, said activist Femen Anya Alian.

UNAIDS, the United Nations agency, said that “evidence shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in gender-based violence in almost all countries”, especially for women trapped at home with their attacker.

“Men’s violence against women is also a pandemic – a pandemic that predates and will survive the virus,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of the UN Women agency. “Last year alone, 243 million women and girls were victims of sexual or physical violence at the hands of their partners. This year, reports of an increase in domestic violence, cyberbullying, child marriage, sexual harassment and sexual violence have poured in, ”she said.

In Turkey, where at least 234 women have been killed since the start of the year, government figures show Istanbul riot police have prevented a small group of protesters from marching to iconic Taksim Square of the city to denounce violence against women. The government has declared the zone closed to demonstrations.

Elsewhere in Istanbul, some 2,000 other women staged a peaceful protest calling on the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to remain committed to a European treaty to combat violence against women. Earlier this year, some officials from Erdogan’s Islamist party spoke out in favor of revising the deal to fit Turkey’s more conservative family values.

Pope Francis marked the day by tweeting: “Too often women are offended, abused, raped and forced into prostitution… If we want a better world, a house of peace and not a court of war, we must all do much more. for the dignity of every woman.

The French government has signed an agreement with TikTok to encourage young people to report abuse via the social network. World football’s governing body, FIFA, has announced an awareness campaign.

France’s deal with TikTok is one of several steps it has taken since a nationwide toll on domestic violence last year, sparked by unusually high numbers of women killed by husbands, boyfriends or ex-partners. Activists say more needs to be done.

French Equal Rights Minister Elisabeth Moreno said domestic violence reports registered with the government rose 42% when the virus first locked in France in the spring, and 15% since a new lockdown was imposed almost a month ago. Since most people do not report such abuse, the actual increase is believed to be higher.

In Britain, the Office for National Statistics said police recorded 259,324 domestic violence offenses between March and June, an 18% increase from the same period in 2018. The Refuge charity said that the number of people calling its domestic violence hotline was 65% higher. between April and June only in the first three months of the year, before the lockdown.

“These appalling statistics show endemic levels of domestic violence,” said Labor Party crime spokesman Nick Thomas-Symonds. “The COVID crisis has not created this scar on our society, but it has made it worse.”

Europe’s largest human rights organization, the Council of Europe, which has 47 nations, has called on lawmakers across Europe to better protect women and girls.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how fragile the safety net for victims of violence really is, especially when it comes to domestic violence,” said Petra Bayr (SOC, Austria), chair of the committee on violence. equality and non-discrimination. of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). “The increase in violence during lockdown has been a shocking revelation in almost all of our societies; he put a magnifying glass on the harmful mentalities that still prevail. ”

Angela Charlton reported from Paris. Nicole Winfield in Rome, Jill Lawless and Sylvia Hui in London, Barry Hatton in Lisbon and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

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