In the last months, the coronavirus disease (COVID19) outbreak has extended all around the world, with consequences already known such as the high mortality rates, the collapse of health services, and the suspension of many economic activities.
Nevertheless, and although the virus infects both women and men, the consequences are different depending on gender, due both to biological and social aspects (The Lancet, 2020), which must be taken into consideration in the estimation of the related impacts.
Among the latter, it must be highlighted that an increase in the prevalence gender based violence during the pandemics has been already advised by WHO (2020), which is related with the confinement measures required to curb its expansion. This has been mentioned in reports sent by different countries, such as Brazil, where the reported cases increased between 40 and 50%, or in Catalunya (Spain) where the calls to help lines increased by 20% in the first days of confinement (UN, 2020; Sosa and Torres, 2020; Colell and Martín, 2020). Also in United Kingdom, a similar increase was observed in help hotlines and visits to websites of organizations devoted to the protection of women (Bradbury-Jones and Isham, 2020).
On the other hand, if gender based violence was underreported before this crisis (according to United Nations, less than 40% of women suffering Gender- Based Violence report it), the current circumstances may involve an increased difficulty to contact social services, including mental health and psychosocial support, which fuels the sense of impunity of abusers.
Moreover, economic and financial inequalities are an additional factor of abuse. On the one hand, there is evidence that women are more vulnerable to the direct economic effects of the outbreak, since they are paid less for the same jobs, have lower saving capacity and more unstable or part-time jobs, while representing the majority of single-parental households. As an example, in the countries that have been more impacted by the outbreak and the management measures to stop their spread, the largest number of layoffs have occurred in service sectors (such as hospitality cleaning services, or retail (UNCTAD, 2020).
On the other hand, women still play the main role in housekeeping, child care and caregiving for dependent relatives, specially after the closure of schools and other facilities, which increases their daily workload.
In the mentioned situation, the COVID19 outbreak provides abusers with increased opportunities for economic control and exploitation. For instance, the abuser could interfere in the woman’s possibilities to get a job, by refusing to share childcare, keeping her from getting out or using a private vehicle (taking into account the restrictions in public transport services). Even in the case of a distance work, an additional possibility would be blocking the access to the required means such as the laptop, phone or internet connection. Likewise, the current uncertainty could lead the abuser to control access to essential resources (heating, energy or food).
In summary, the economic consequences of this crisis can be devastating for the victims, involving additional barriers to leave the abusing relationship and to build a new independent life.
Editorial The Lancet, 2020.