Addressing GBV must be a key part of social, economic COVID recovery

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As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in early 2020, people around the world retreated to their homes seeking safety from the virus. For many women and girls, though, home was not a place of safety, but rather a violent reality, often endured long before COVID-19. اضافة اعلان

In the first months of lockdown in Jordan, there was a 33 percent rise in reported cases of domestic violence. A year on, reports of domestic violence had risen by a further 50 percent. While such a rise could indicate a greater willingness to report violence, it presents a bleak view of the scale of violence endured by girls and women in Jordan. 

 Gender-based violence is the focus of a global campaign running until Human Rights Day on December 10.  During these 16 days, experts, academics, development professionals, and analysts will discuss GBV, slogans will be shared on social media, and news outlets will publish sensational stories with splashy headlines. 

This year is the 30th anniversary of the 16 Days of Activism campaign, and awareness of violence against women has grown in these decades. But some quieter, less visible forms of gender-based violence remain unnoticed.

Physical forms of gender-based violence are perhaps the easiest to recognize, but they accounted for just a quarter of reported cases of GBV so far in 2021.  More than half of GBV cases involved psychological or emotional abuse, such as threats, isolation, or intimidation. 

Simply put, gender-based violence means any act that denies a person their basic rights because of their gender. The act could be visible and physical, like a husband beating his wife for not preparing food on time. But it also could be subtle and psychological, like a man constantly berated by his wife and children for being unemployed. It could be sexual, such as a teenage girl being touched inappropriately by a teacher at school. It could be economic, such as a working woman not being allowed by her family to decide how she spends her earnings. These are just a few examples of how GBV plays out in the lives of ordinary people across the world. 

But these stories do not make headlines, and in some cases are accepted as normal. A woman who does not cook for her family deserves to be beaten. A man who does not have a job is unmanly. A girl is a sexual object whose consent does not matter. A woman may be allowed to work but should let others decide how to spend her income. Children absorb these lessons from parents and communities that themselves grew up with these stories. 

When boys grow up being told that to “be a man” is a show of power, often over those perceived as weaker and more vulnerable, they are being trained to normalize GBV. When girls grow up believing that a woman must be an obedient wife who never questions the authority of her husband, or that a husband is a man only if he is a provider, they are being trained to normalize GBV. 

This normalization must be broken for the next generation. Society cannot afford not to: studies show that even by a conservative estimate, GBV costs the global economy around 2 percent of global GDP, or $1.5 trillion. This is a salient point for reflection, given the pandemic-driven breakdown in the global economy. More critically, however, a new generation of women and girls, together with men and boys, must not endure another 30 years of violence. 
Addressing gender-based violence must be a key part of the social and economic recovery from the pandemic. More women have been affected during the pandemic by intimate partner violence than by the COVID-19 virus. 
GBV affects women’s access to education and employment, and their participation in civic life and politics, and increases poverty and inequality. It is time to end this crisis; women cannot wait another 30 years. 

Dr Bisika Thapa is the Gender Justice Program Manager at Oxfam in Jordan.

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