COVID-19, gender-based violence, and masculinities: An online dialogue

This online dialogue took place on Tuesday 19 May 2020. It explored the links between masculinities and various forms of gender-based violence that have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, including domestic violence against women and girls, or on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and other forms of marginalization.


This session looked at what drives such violence, with a particular focus on ideas and attitudes around ‘being a man’, and how we can engage men and boys in solidarity with women’s rights and other social justice movements during the pandemic to respond to and prevent this violence.

This online dialogue was the second in a series coordinated by MenEngage Alliance on ‘Patriarchy, masculinities and COVID-19’. 

Click here for part one in the series on ‘Patriarchy, masculinities, and COVID-19’

Click here for more tools and resources on COVID-19, masculinities and gender equality.




Speakers addressed questions around:

  • How are gendered norms and beliefs around ‘being a man’ driving increasing levels of gender-based violence during COVID-19?
  • How do norms and values around masculinities relate to violence at all levels – from the domestic sphere up to institutional and State levels?
  • What actions can individuals, civil society organizations, institutions and governments take to respond to and prevent this violence?
  • What can organizations working with men and boys do to address this violence?
  • In doing so, how can we ensure actions to tackle gender-based violence are fully accountable to women’s rights and LGBTQI movements?

See below for a deeper introduction to the context that informed this session.



Lisa Davis

Lisa Davis, Esq. is MADRE’s Senior Legal Advisor, Chair of the Legal Strategies Advisory Committee. Lisa has written and reported extensively on human rights and gender issues, including on women’s rights and LGBTIQ rights, with a focus on peace building and security issues in conflict and disaster settings. Lisa has testified before U.S. Congress, U.K. Parliament, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and various international human rights bodies. In 2016, Davis was elected by their peers to deliver the civil society statement for the U.N. Security Council’s open debate on the use of sexual violence in conflict situations. Lisa also teaches at CUNY Law School in the Human Rights and Gender Justice (HRGJ) Clinic.

Carlos Idibouo

Originally from Côte d’Ivoire , Carlos has been living in Canada for the last 14 years and iditifies as Queer feminist gender non-conforming. Carlos is an independent projects consultant, specialising in issues related to human rights, gender-based violences, sexual and gender diversity within the LGBTQI communities, and women and children’s rights. Carlos focuses his current work on understanding the trajectory of Patriarchy and how toxic masculinities manifest themselves within the African LGBTQI communities, and what could be the best strategic approaches to addressing them. Carlos is a board member of the North American MenEngage Network (NAMEN)

Bafana Khumalo (moderator)

Bafana Khumalo is the co-founder and Senior Strategic Advisor at Sonke Gender Justice. With a long and accomplished track record in the NGO sector, Bafana is a well known figure in the field of women’s rights, gender equality and transforming masculinities, including in issues such as SRHR for all, HIV prevention, engaging faith leaders and gender based violence. He is the Co-Chair of MenEngage Alliance.


The context

Before COVID-19, domestic violence was already a global emergency. 

briefing paper published by MADRE and several partners (including MenEngage Alliance) set out the urgency of this issue:

One out of every three women in the world will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most at the hands of intimate partners. Nearly half of all women in the world have experienced psychological violence. Those who face gender violence as well as discrimination and persecution on the basis of race, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex characteristics, age, ethnicity, economic status, caste, or class, are at further risk and often have access to far fewer resources. 

The pandemic has exacerbated conditions that too often lead to violence. Stress and anxiety brought on by the outbreak can leave abusers feeling out of control, triggering violence that is rooted in a sense of entitlement and power. Measures to control the spread of coronavirus, while important for public health, can create more danger. Social distancing reinforces the isolation that abusers impose. Lockdown cuts off avenues of support and escape.

The paper sets out practical steps and policy recommendations for organizations working at local and national levels to prevent, address, and document domestic violence under COVID-19.

An urgent problem made worse

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ‘lockdowns’ that have been imposed around the world have led to a dramatic increase in gender-based violence in all its forms. The pandemic has exacerbated conditions that too often lead to violence.

Measures to control the spread of coronavirus, while important for public health, can increase risks of violence for marginalized groups. Social distancing reinforces the isolation that abusers impose, while  lockdowns cut off avenues of support and escape.

Specific risks for LGBTQI communities

Violence against LGBTIQ people is on the increase globally. LGBTIQ people are at a higher risk of violence and abuse during lockdown due to forced cohabitation with unsupportive family or abusive partners.

Calling for solidarity and a coordinated response

This situation calls for an urgent coordinated response from civil society organizations, institutions and governments. Many organizations, including those that work with men and boys, have mobilized quickly to address the problem, creating new and innovative ways to prevent and respond to violence.

Towards accountable allyship 

MenEngage Alliance seeks to be an ally to women’s rights and other social justice movements and to add value to these movements through a ‘men and masculinities’ perspective. However, efforts to engage men and boys, if not done in ways that are informed by feminist and human rights principles, gender-transformative and accountable to women’s rights and other social justice movements, can often end up doing more harm than good. It is essential therefore that in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic efforts to engage men and boys are carried out in ways that are fully accountable to these movements.

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