“Not all men practice violence against women but all women live with the threat of male violence every single day. All over the Earth.” - Fuad Alakbarov, human rights activist
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25). The focus this year is, of course, COVID-19 and the shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls.
Many victim-survivors of domestic violence have been forced into lockdown with their abusers — one in three women worldwide experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, mostly by an intimate partner. Hong Kong is not immune with one in seven women in our city experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime.
With social distancing restrictions limiting in person gatherings, online and digital communications offer new and troubling ways of perpetrating sexual violence. Just this week, the SCMP reported that “sextortion” cases in Hong Kong, in which victims are blackmailed with compromising images or recordings, had more than tripled since the same times last year.
TWF is proud of our long term commitment to tackling gender-based violence. We have worked to raise awareness of this issue and drive action, from our very first piece of research, based on the Beijing Platform for Action framework, to this year’s powerful #MakePeopleCount anti-sexual violence campaign which seeks to break the taboo surrounding sexual violence and enhance the support and protection available to victim-survivors.
To keep a spotlight on this issue, we have organised and spoken at numerous events this year. You can listen again to our informative and important panel discussions on Tackling Sexual Harassment in all Workplaces and Cybersexual Violence.
Every one of us can take action to fight the pandemic of violence against women — witnesses and active bystanders play a powerful role in stopping harassment from taking place or escalating, and in supporting victim-survivors, both in-person and online. Speak up, intervene if it’s safe to do so, and show you stand with survivors.
However, with COVID-19’s relentless global advance, a surge in calls to helplines in Hong Kong regarding both domestic and sexual violence and a fourth wave arriving in our city, we need urgent strategic action to address this shadow pandemic. Read our advocacy recommendations to government here.
More needs to be done to prioritise addressing violence against women amid COVID-19. We must urgently address the gaps in services, in legal protections and government policy and funding to protect women and girls. TWF is committed to continuing our mission to empower women and girls, and to building an environment in Hong Kong that supports and protects victim-survivors.
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.