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Domestic Violence Surges During Worldwide Lockdowns
This week, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a statement encouraging governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to COVID-19. His appeal came after domestic violence hotlines around the globe report a precipitous rise in calls following lockdown orders. One police station near Wuhan, China received three times the usual call volume when the province was under quarantine. Similar patterns have been reported in countries ranging from Kosovo to Turkey to Brazil. Some are instituting new measures to extend services for survivors. The French government announced it would pay for pop-up counseling centers and for hotel rooms for victims can escape violent home situations.
Access to Women’s Health Services Reduced
Though women represent 70 percent of the healthcare sector globally, women’s health and reproductive health services characterized as “nonessential” are being cut. Access to contraception, maternal health, menstrual hygiene products, and abortion services have reduced as the pressure of COVID-19 grows on health systems. In the United States, Ohio, Texas, and Alabama have tried to restrict abortion services. In India, menstrual products were at first not classified for essential production. These resource shifts can be fatal. Following the Ebola outbreak in 2014, a reduction in services in affected countries led to a rise in maternal mortality.
Job Insecurity for Women Magnified by Pandemic
Globally, women disproportionately work in the informal sector, and tend to shoulder the burden of unpaid and low-paid care work. As COVID-19 spread across Asia, women bore the brunt of widespread job cuts. The sectors dominated by women workers, including textiles and the service industry, have been the first hit. In Bangladesh, more than a million garment works have been laid off, 80 percent of them women. This trend has continued elsewhere—according to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 60 percent of the jobs eliminated in the first wave of pandemic cuts were held by women.