A research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence has shown that a ‘shadow pandemic’ in the form of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) has emerged due to the upsurge of the disease.
The research said since the COVID-19 outbreak, emerging data and reports had shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence had intensified raising concerns as a ‘shadow pandemic’ growing amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
The research which was commissioned by FIDA Ghana with support from the STAR Ghana Foundation discovered that most of the cases were likely to go unreported.
At a dialogue session organised by FIDA-Ghana to disseminate the research which was on the assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on sexual violence against teenage girls with or without disability and new forms of violence, a consultant researcher, Ms Blessing Agboada said SGBV specialists tracking the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls across the globe have began to draw attention to a ‘shadow pandemic’ of violence against women and girls”.
To this effect, she said the UN Women had described SGBV as a “shadow pandemic” occurring alongside COVID 19 across the world.
In recognition of these issues, on April 5, 2020, the UN Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres called attention to what he described as a “horrifying surge in domestic violence” since the start of COVID 19, and advocated for all governments to "put women's safety first as they respond to the pandemic.”
Global statistics during the pandemic
Giving a global statistics before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ms Agboada said globally, 243 million women and girls were abused by their intimate partners in the past year.
She said since the pandemic, with lockdown measures, countries around the world have seen an alarming rise in reporting on violence against women, especially domestic violence.
She was of the view that although reported cases represent only a fraction of the actual number of GBV incidents, available data suggested that cases were rising and cited data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which showed countries such as France and Cyprus where reported cases had increased by 30 per cent, Argentina, 25 per cent and Singapore 33 per cent, since the start of the pandemic.
She said the patriarchal system of the Ghanaian society excuses domestic violence such that victims of intimate partner violence were less likely to see their situations as an emergency that needed to be reported.
According to the research, before COVID 19, Ghana’s data on SGBV in a 2016 national survey estimated that approximately 27.7 per cent of Ghanaian women had experienced at least one form of domestic violence such as economic, social, psychological, physical and sexual violence within the 12 months prior to the survey.
The 2016 survey also indicated that 23.1 per cent of Ghanaian women found wife-beating acceptable and only nine per cent of women first report domestic violence cases to the police.
Making reference to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report on Ghana, Ms Agboada said between April 2, 2020 and the end of May 2020, a total of 4,097 calls were received with 128 cases of SGBV forwarded to the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) for redress.
She added that emerging data shows that since the outbreak of COVID 19, violence against women and girls, and particularly domestic violence had intensified as many women were in ‘lockdown’ at home with their abusers while being cut off from normal support services.
A Programmes Manager, FIDA Ghana, Ms Nolle Appiah in a submission said the report COVID 19 “Shadow Pandemic” and Emerging Gender-Based Violence Concern in Ghana provided insights and recommendations into stakeholders’ critical observations and concerns regarding sexual gender-based violence at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and partial lockdowns in Accra and Kumasi.