Lockdowns around Latin America are helping slow the spread of COVID-19, but are having a darker and less-intended consequence: a spike in calls to helplines suggests a rise in domestic abuse, in a region where almost 20 million women and girls suffer sexual and physical violence each year.
In cities from Buenos Aires to Mexico City, Santiago, São Paulo, and La Paz, families and individuals have been confined in their homes in an unprecedented way, often only allowed out for emergencies or to shop for essentials.
Prosecutors, victim support teams, women’s movements, and the United Nations all say this has caused a rise in domestic violence towards women. They cite increasing numbers of calls to abuse hotlines.
In some countries, like Mexico and Brazil, there has been a rise in formal reports of abuse, while in others, including Chile and Bolivia, there has been a drop in formal complaints. Prosecutors and UN Women said the latter was likely not due to a decline in violence, but because women were less able to seek help or report abuse through normal channels.
“The jump in violence has not surprised us, it is the unleashing of a violence that was already there in people,” said Eva Giberti, founder of the Victims Against Violence program in Argentina, who helps runs a hotline for women to report abuse.
“Under normal social circumstances that had been limited to some degree.”
Argentina’s emergency 137 line for abuse victims, supported by the justice department, has seen a 67% rise in calls for help in April versus a year earlier, after a nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 20.
UN Women in a report on Wednesday said there was evidence of rising violence against women in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia, and a doubling in the number of femicides in Argentina during the quarantine, citing a women’s observatory in Mar del Plata.
Pre-pandemic, the Argentine government estimates that a woman was killed every 23 hours.
Domestic violence “seems to be another pandemic,” said Lucía Vassallo, a filmmaker whose documentary “Line 137” looks at the issue.
Source: Yahoo News
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