Why the Middle East cannot ignore the ‘shadow pandemic’ of violence against women


This year, campaigners who took part in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), which started on 25 November, took on an immense challenge.

Six women are murdered every hour across the world because of GBV, often carried out by partners and family members, in what international rights organisations are now calling the ‘shadow pandemic’.

With lockdown measures forcing people across the globe to stay indoors, public demonstrations were cancelled and awareness campaigns have had to be creative.

A new survey carried out by the research network Arab Barometer, in partnership with Princeton University and local groups throughout the Middle East, highlights just how insidious the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been on gender-based violence in the region.

Out of the countries surveyed, Tunisia ranked at the top, with a worrying 70 percent of those polled saying they thought gender-based violence had increased during the pandemic.

Algeria followed with the second-highest figure of 46 percent, while Morocco and Jordan stood at just one percent less. In Lebanon, a little more than a third of people said they had witnessed an increase in GBV. This, partnered with a lack of attention that states in the region are giving to policy and legislation to tackle the problem, could prove a deadly combination for women.

“On the surface level it feels like some things are moving, but in the core we know that this [gender-based violence] is now way far from legislators’ priority with everything else going on,” said Ghida Anani, the Founder and Director of Abaad, a Lebanese non-profit organisation tackling gender-based violence and gender equality.

Lebanon, like many states in the region, has had a difficult time dealing with pre-existing issues exacerbated by the outbreak of Covid-19. In October 2019 mass protests upended Lebanon’s stability. Then a massive explosiondestroyed the port of the country’s capital, Beirut, with Lebanese citizens fighting the worst economic crisis they have witnessed since the country’s civil war. Anani said that all these factors have drastically affected the number of women coming to Abaad to seek help…

Read full article at The New Arab