This session took place on 7 May 2020. It explored the urgent need to address the exacerbation of men’s violence against women (VAW) at home in the context of COVID-19. It is the first in a series coordinated by MenEngage Alliance on ‘Patriarchy, masculinities and COVID-19’.
About this workshop
This workshop examined the reality of men’s increased violence during COVID-19, and how organizations are finding innovative ways to mobilize and respond in different contexts around the world.
Speakers addressed key questions around:
- Violence against women is usually underreported, and experts estimate an even higher level of underreporting during COVID-19 because of lockdown conditions. With reported cases showing significant increases around the world, how can we understand and begin to address the problem?
- Why is violence increasing now? What has changed since the start of COVID-19? What has stayed the same?
- Is the separation between public and private, home and work, family and social fundamentally important to men, and to how they see themselves?
- How can we find innovative ways to challenge and prevent harmful behaviours and attitudes, and what does it mean to be accountable in these efforts?
The session included opportunities for questions and comments, as well as participatory break-out sessions. (The break-out sessions are not included in the recording available here).
- Ghida Anani, ABAAD
- Samitha Sugathimala, Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD), Sri Lanka
- Alvaro Campos, Director, Instituto WEM, Costa Rica
- Moderated by Humberto Carolo, Executive Director, White Ribbon Canada (and MenEngage Alliance co-chair)
The context: An urgent problem made worse during lockdown
Violence against women and girls is a serious problem, with records showing that ‘243 million women and girls have been subjected to sexual and /or physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the previous 12 months’ (UN WOMEN, Shadow Pandemic report).
With the introduction of lockdowns and shelter at home regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sharp increase in registered cases of men’s violence against women and girls throughout the world:
↑ 30% in France
↑ 25% in Argentina
↑ 30% in Cyprus
↑ 33% in Singapore
It is important to highlight that approximately 50% of cases of violence against women and girls go unreported.
See this webpage under the heading ‘A rise in gender-based violence during COVID-19: Evidence, stories and experiences’ for more reports and evidence of a rise in gender-based violence and intimate partner violence during COVID-19.
Violence as a part of the social gender order
COVID-19 has brought up a wide angle, panorama view of a problem that is persistent because it is ingrained in all our social, political, economic structures, and sheltered by beliefs as illustrated by 52% of women and 42% of men in India (per the last National Family Health Survey) who considered it acceptable for a husband to use physical violence against his wife. These are beliefs and attitudes that are in line with the social gender norms, which, for example, establish that wives are properties of men, or that men are entitled to the privilege of ownership of his “woman”.
The home as a gendered space
The coronavirus pandemic has shed light on the home as a hub and center of everyday life for all. In a world that is shaped by gender attributes and roles, the home is usually described as a private domain, associated with family, personal, intimate, individual. The patriarchal narrative often contrasts the home with the public and work life, the political, productive and social. Home is also made to be associated with women, female, non-productive, or reproductive, place of care and nourishment. This mainstream narrative wants to portray men as the ones who ‘own’ or rule the home, but not the ones to spend all their time in it. Lockdowns have placed many men and boys inside the home as non-productive, private individuals removed from their usual social networks, and often unable to make a living.
Responses and gaps
The shocking numbers being brought up by media coverage, opinion pieces and reports from advocacy organizations urge government agencies and policy makers to address the needs of survivors and find alternatives to their situation of sharing a roof with the abuser.
While attention is rightly placed on the immediate needs of survivors, it is also important to remember that women and girls are not the problem. We understand that men are main perpetrators of violence, and the fact that the prevalence of this behavior is the problem. And that the scale and acceptance of problem is part of a larger system that we live and breathe, which must be confronted.
Many social justice organizations are responding to this need through innovative campaigns promoting caring, non-violent masculinities, including through social media, developing new tools and resources and encouraging bystander intervention.