Thursday 4 June, 2020

Victims of abuse urged to call helpline during COVID-19 shutdown

The Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs encourages anyone who may be a victim of domestic violence during the national shutdown, or knows of anyone who may be abused during this time, to call its 24-hour helpline for assistance.

The telephone number is  536-HOPE or 536- 4673. 

In the case of child abuse or child protection emergencies, persons may call the Child Care Board at 256-9662, and the Police at 211.

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The social services helpline, which was established to provide guidance and other assistance to the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic, will also assist victims of abuse whose lives may be in danger while spending more time at home with aggressors.

The Organization of American States’ Committee of Experts of the Follow-up  Implementation Mechanism of the Belém do Pará Convention, in a recent communique, called for the incorporation of the gender perspective in measures taken to mitigate COVID-19.

The Committee noted that many of the measures being taken to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19 may have a disproportionate effect in relation to women and girls, and, in some cases, may exacerbate violence against them.

It further stated that “the forced isolation, that social distancing and quarantines entail, places women at a very high risk of extreme violence by forcing full-time cohabitation with their aggressors, as well as exposing children and other vulnerable people to this violence, either directly or indirectly”.

To prevent this, the Committee of Experts suggested a number of measures to which the Bureau of Gender Affairs of the Ministry of People Empowerment & Elder Affairs is committed to. These measures include: 

  • The establishment of decent shelters that women, their children, older adults and anyone else at risk of experiencing violence can access during the quarantines established for the mitigation of COVID-19;
  • Strategic dissemination of the means to report gender-based violence;
    for example, through text messages, web pages, printed materials in pharmacies, supermarkets or any other establishment that can be accessed during quarantine or any other means that does not put the woman at risk;
  • Establishing immediate response teams to deal effectively with complaints and cases of gender-based violence;
  • Strengthening protection measures for women and girls at risk;
  • Reducing or avoiding the sale of alcohol, drugs, weapons and any other trigger for gender violence during periods of isolation and quarantine; and
  • Maintaining all necessary services and actions to prevent, prosecute and punish violence against women and girls.

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