Socio-economic and Health Impact of COVID-19 on Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) in Ghana
28 April 2020
Pandemics such as COVID-19 compound prevailing gender inequalities and vulnerabilities, increasing risks of abuse. During an epidemic, women and girls may be at higher risk of experiencing intimate partner violence and other forms of domestic violence due to heightened tensions in the household. In 2016, approximately 27.7 per cent of Ghanaian women had experienced at least one form of domestic violence (physical, economic, psychological, social and sexual violence).
Many married couples are spending more time at home in partial lockdown as a result of COVID-19. The patriarchal system of the Ghanaian society excuses domestic violence such that, victims of intimate partner violence are less likely to see their situations as an emergency that needs to be reported. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a disruption to economic activities, especially affecting the self-employed who have been forced to temporarily shut down in some cases. The interruption of sources of income has placed both financial and psychological burden on breadwinners, who are mostly men. This may also translate to heightened tension leading to violence.
Ghana should prepare for possible surges of GBV, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation and violence such as assaults, rape and incest during and after the restrictions. Thus, the domestic violence helpline, 055 100 0900 activated by DOVVSU in partnership with UNFPA, needs to be widely publicized on various media platforms and agency websites. In addition to the hotline, safe spaces should be designated for women where they can report abuse without alerting perpetrators. Moreover, GBV prevention strategies should be integrated into the operational plans of the justice and security sectors during the crisis. Local communities and leaders at all levels should also be engaged to ensure access to information and to properly identify risks of SGBV and support mitigating measures.