Orange the World: United against gender-based violence – a shadow pandemic during COVID-19 global crisis

Date: Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Originally published on
Dominika Stojanoska, UN Women Moldova Country Representative. Credit: UN Women

“In the context of COVID-19, we have a collective responsibility to explore innovative solutions to build back a society that leaves no one behind, where women and girls are empowered and live life free of violence” – Dominika Stojanoska, UN Women Moldova Country Representative 

In 2020, we have lived through things we could not imagine would happen. COVID-19 affected people’s health and well-being, their present and their future. And while we are still engaged in containing the virus from spreading, the restrictive measures that were necessary to be introduced, impacted women and men differently. Violence against women during COVID –19 pandemic – known as “the shadow pandemic,” grew dramatically in all countries. Calls to helplines increased five-times in some countries; In the Republic of Moldova, according to the data, available based on Women and Girls’ Trust Line calls report, administered by International Center „La Strada”, the number of women who reported cases of violence, has increased by 35%. Even before COVID-19, violence against women was one of the most widespread violations of human rights, with almost 35 per cent of women experiencing physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, or sexual violence by a non-partner in their lifetime. This figure does not include sexual harassment. Research data reveal that of the 87,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 globally, more than half (50,000- 58 per cent) were killed by intimate partners or family members, meaning that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day. 

In the Republic of Moldova, the latest studies reveal that 63,4% of women have experienced psychological, physical, or sexual violence from their spouse/intimate partner. In other words, 6 of 10 women experienced from the age of 15 at least one form of violence. In the last 4 years, in the Republic of Moldova 144 women were killed because of acts of domestic violence. 

Violence against women has tremendous costs, from greater health care and legal expenses and losses in productivity, impacting national budgets and overall development. The global cost of violence against women had previously been estimated at approximately USD 1.5 trillion. That figure can only be rising as violence increases now and continues in the aftermath of the pandemic.

As the Republic of Moldova is commemorating during 25th of November – 10th of December the ”16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign”, for the 19th  consecutive year, it is important to consider all the challenges that women survivors are facing during the COVID-19 outbreak and take the opportunity to rethink the ways how we further provide support and respond altogether to gender-based violence. To make this happen, women survivors should be fully engaged as partners in building the longer-term solutions.

This year, in the framework of the international campaign, the focus in the Republic of Moldova will be on the importance of protection and the increased availability of services for survivors of violence, as well as the urgency of declaring those as essential during this health crisis and any other future emergency response.

The 16 days Campaign in the Republic of Moldova will reflect the global priorities framed under the umbrella of the UN Secretary-General Political Engagement Strategy, urging all governments to accelerate concrete policy response to gender-based violence in the context of COVID-19 as following:  include FUNDING for essential services on gender-based violence and for women’s organizations working on the issue in all COVID-19 response efforts; PREVENT gender-based violence though mobilization campaigns and a zero-tolerance policy for GBV; RESPOND to survivors’ needs for GBV services like hotlines, shelters and justice response, even during lockdowns; and COLLECT data to improve GBV services, programmes and policies. 

This editorial is developed in the context of the Human Rights Awareness Campaign “Recover Better Together: Human Rights for All” launched by UN Moldova under the guidance of the UN Human Rights Office Moldova.