Friday, January 22, 2021

Femicide rates rise as coronavirus lockdown continues

By The Palestine Monitor - April 30, 2020
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [women‘s rights]

The home is often cited as the most dangerous place for women, and with coronavirus lockdown laws sweeping the world and Palestine - this means domestic violence rates have skyrocketed as women and children are locked inside with their abusers.


Since the Covid-19 quarantine measures were put in place, five women have been killed in Palestine due to domestic violence, with a total of 11 women murdered since the start of the year.

In response to these murders, both women and men in Palestine and historic Palestinestaged a protest within their homes  - standing in their windows banging pots and pans and waving handmade banners, to raise awareness for women’s rights and the prevalence of domestic violence due to the lockdown laws. 

According to Tal’at, an independent feminist movement who organised the protests, four of the five femicides since the implementation of the lockdown laws succumbed to gunshot wounds. 

Tal'at activist Soheir Asaad said that while for many "quarantine" suggests being safe at home, for others it is "hell".

"It means living with someone who could end your life," Assad told Al Jazeera from Haifa, describing the reality faced by some women during the lockdown.

Other women’s support groups have reported a sharp increase in woman reaching out to help services, with NGO Assiwar reporting a 30 per cent uptick in helpline calls and a plethora of social media messages. 

The Palestinian Working Women Society has also said their counselling hotline received nearly 1000 calls between March 22 to April 15. 

Lamia Naamneh, head of Assiwar who has been defending women’s rights for over 20 years, said most appeals for help involve women who have received death threats.

"Just yesterday, a call led us to a woman who was only able to speak to us via Facebook Messenger chat while at home," Naamneh told Al Jazeera last week. "She said she was threatened, beaten, and we had to send the police to get her transferred to a safe house," Naameh described.

Naamneh added there has also been a surge in cases of both sexual violence and domestic abuse against children following the implementation of the lockdown measures. 

Women and children in Palestine facing domestic violence due to Covid-19 isolation are not alone. Around the Middle East and the world, the rates of femicide and abuse at the hands of their loved ones have risen. 

Last week Tunisian Women's Affairs Minister Asma Shiri raised the alarm on rising domestic violence as a result of government efforts to curb the novel coronavirus pandemic. After Tunisia imposed a curfew in mid-March, the number of domestic violence cases rose fivefold. 

Although domestic violence is not unique to the Arab world, it appears especially dire due to patriarchal notions of women's roles, especially at home. 

Lebanese social worker Rania Suleiman told German News site Deutsche Welle that women face additional pressure as a result of tight-knit family structures and multigenerational living conditions in confined spaces.

"Under these conditions, women are forced to react to the needs of the family to a large extent," Suleiman said. "This means highly stressful situations daily. If they don't meet the demands the way their husband wants them to, they run the risk of being physically abused."

Alaa Aknes, a social worker at an emergency clinic in the Gaza Strip where victims of domestic violence are treated, recommends always carrying official identity documents, having available phone numbers of aid organisations and identifying trusted persons that could help in an emergency.



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