Stay-at-home orders likely to increase domestic violence, WHO leader warns

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Isolation measures such as self-quarantines and stay-at-home-orders will likely lead to an increase in domestic violence, according to the World Health Organization.

Speaking to reporters Friday, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned about the dangers caused by rules recently enacted around the world to curb the spread of the pandemic.

“Women in abusive relationships are more likely to be exposed to violence, as are their children, as family members spend more time in close contact, and families cope with additional stress and potential economic or job losses,” said the director, who goes by Dr. Tedros.

A substantial spike in violence has been felt in countries around the world, leading some governments and anti-violence organizations to put reparative measures in place.

In Tunisia, there was a six-fold rise in domestic abuse cases in the last week of March, compared with the same period last year.

Asma Shiri Laabidi, the minister in charge of women’s affairs, told Agence France-Presse that more than 40 cases involving violence against women in an intimate setting from March 23 to 29 — a jump from seven cases in 2019.

On Friday, the government announced a free mental health helpline to provide support to abuse victims.

“Confinement has significant consequences for families. Tensions have risen and the risk of women being attacked is much higher,” Laabidi said.

In France, a number of measures were implemented to allow women to ask for help whenever they leave their house to buy essential items.

Victims are being encouraged to go to pharmacies, which are still open during the lockdown, and ask for help. Staff members will contact police if asked.

“In a pharmacy, you always have someplace to talk to the chemist without being heard by anybody, so you can say what you think, even about such a problem, and be sure that nobody can hear,” Gilles Burbot, a pharmacist in Paris, told CBS News.

In cases when it might not be possible for a victim to speak to a pharmacist by herself, she can use the codeword “Mask 19” to raise the alarm.

According to the French interior minister, domestic violence cases in the country have jumped by 36% in Paris and 32% in the rest of France since March 17, the first day of the lockdown.

In Greenland, sale of alcohol has been banned in capital, Nuuk, for the duration of the lockdown. The rule was adopted in an attempt to reduce domestic violence against children.

A spike in domestic violence was observed after schools were closed in the autonomous Danish territory.

The country’s prime minister, Kim Kielsen, told The Guardian that “at the heart of my decision is the protection of children; they have to have a safe home.”

To Dr. Tedros, “there is never any excuse for violence,” he said. “We abhor all violence of all forms, at all times.”

“If you are experiencing or at risk of domestic violence, then make a plan to protect yourself and your children any way you can,” he suggested. “This could include having a neighbor, friend, relative, or shelter identified to go to should you need to leave the house immediately.”


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