COVID-19 Exacerbating Gender-Based Violence in Iraq: WHO
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COVID-19 Exacerbating Gender-Based Violence in Iraq: WHO

BAGHDAD (WHO) — This year, the world marks the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), which starts on November 25, in unprecedented circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic required governments to enact life-saving public health measures, including lockdowns, curfews and other restrictions on movement, to contain the spread of the virus. For women and girls, however, such measures can also be sources of increased risk of violence and loss of life.

Recent global and regional reports have shown an alarming increase in GBV cases during the pandemic, in particular domestic violence. Many of the measures necessary for controlling a viral outbreak have also significantly limited the ability of survivors to shield themselves from their abusers, or access support mechanisms.

Iraq is no exception. The GBV Information Management System (GBVIMS) has recorded a marked rise in the number of reported incidents of violence in 2020. Domestic violence accounted for more than three-quarters of all reported GBV incidents. Given that Iraqi women and children - especially those with disabilities - were already exposed to high levels of risk of domestic violence pre-pandemic, these figures are only the tip of the iceberg, considering that a large portion of incidents are not reported.

While we commend its efforts to end gender-based violence, we call on the Government of Iraq to address the root causes of violence against women and children and to promote women’s leadership and participation in decision-making, including during times of humanitarian crisis and emergency. GBV prevention, risk mitigation and responsive actions should remain the most urgent priority, as many women and girls continue to be a target of violence and abuse suffering from the lack of legislation that can protect them and hold perpetrators accountable. 

We urge the Government and Parliament of Iraq to end GBV, to hold perpetrators accountable, to create protective spaces and environments where survivors of GBV feel safe and empowered and can thrive.

We pledge to keep working together, as One UN, with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, civil society, the international community and all partners to ensure the protection of women and children across Iraq.