Press release: New UN Women reports reveal the impacts of COVID-19 on Violence Against Women in the Arab States

Date: Tuesday, August 11, 2020

11 August 2020, Cairo — From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, women in the Arab States have been playing a disproportionate role in responding to the disease, including as frontline healthcare workers, carers at home, and as community leaders and mobilisers. They have also been disproportionately affected by measures to contain the virus, and domestic violence has emerged as an additional impact of the pandemic in the region.

To better understand the implications of the pandemic and to assess its effects on gender equality and violence against women, UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States (ROAS) conducted a web-survey in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen focused on gender roles, and attitudes and practices related to gender equality and violence against women. A total of 16,462 respondents took part in the survey.

According to the study, entitled The Effects of COVID-19 on Violence Against Women and Gendered Social Norms, about half of the respondents from all nine surveyed countries agree that women are currently facing increased risk of violence from their husbands because of COVID-19, with less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seeking help of any sort or reporting the crime. The study also found that nearly one in three respondents (men and women) considered that women should tolerate violence during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep the family together.

However, the report also finds that more than half the respondents in all the surveyed countries showed positive attitudes on willingness to report domestic violence incidents. At least two-thirds of respondents expressed their willingness to engage in actions that would prevent violence against women in their community, with men more willing than women to take action.

The preliminary findings of the study also indicate that COVID-19 has increased the burden of unpaid care and domestic work for both men and women in the region. While domestic tasks such as cleaning, cooking and serving meals, in particular, appear almost exclusively to be women’s responsibilities, other unpaid care responsibilities were distributed a little more evenly, particularly among married respondents. Women were typically more likely to be in charge of the physical care of children, and men more likely to provide teaching support. In addition, male respondents in all nine countries reported increasing the time spent in caring for elderly, disabled or sick household members.

“COVID-19 has deepened pre-existing gender inequalities, which are further exacerbated in contexts of fragility, conflict, and emergencies. Women’s increased risk of violence in the lockdown context is a particular concern. However, despite significant challenges, the study suggests progress on some fronts,” said Dr. Moez Doraid, UN Women Regional Director a.i. for the Arab States. “While the burden of unpaid care remains largely carried by women, the pandemic seems to have prompted men to be more engaged in taking care of children and the elderly,” he added.

In addition, UN Women conducted a second study among civil society organizations (CSOs) to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on their work, including the continuation of their services and the implications on violence against women in the region. Over 220 organizations from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen took part in the survey.

More than 50 per cent of surveyed women's CSOs stated that domestic violence had increased in the Arab States region during the lockdown, indicating increased stress over financial hardships, prolonged confinement in closed spaces, as well as the discontinuation of services or support systems for women as the main causes. CSOs also noted an increase in online violence towards women and girls with perpetrators increasingly active on social networks.

Furthermore, surveyed CSOs reported that while the pandemic had increased the number of reported cases of violence against women in the region, that trend was coupled with the disruption of essential services for survivors of violence due to lockdown measures, including health, police, justice and social services. For instance, respondents in some countries mentioned that both shelters and hotlines have been impacted by the pandemic (respectively at 15 per cent and 29 per cent). Hotlines have faced a higher number of calls and have had to adapt to provide remote counselling services.

The study also finds that as seen in other crises, the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdown measures have had a significant impact on minorities and vulnerable populations who have lost their support structures. Refugee women, migrant women, women with disabilities, as well as ethnic minorities and sexual minorities were described by women's CSOs as facing a “double impact” of the pandemic due to their pre-existing vulnerabilities.

Read the preliminary reports here:

The Effects of COVID-19 on Violence Against Women and Gendered Social Norms

Impact of COVID-19 on Violence against Women and Girls in the Arab States through the Lens of Women's Civil Society Organizations

Media contacts:

Diego De La Rosa

Regional Communications Specialist

diego.delarosa(at)unwomen.org

Nourhan El-Nagdy

Regional Communications Associate

nourhan.elnagdy(at)unwomen.org

UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States

Cairo, Egypt