Violence against women in times of Covid-19

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By Patrícia Rosalba Salvador Moura Costa*

In 2018, Brazil registered 263.067 cases of intentional bodily harm in the form of domestic violence.

In times of confinement due to COVID-19, international bodies, non-governmental organizations, feminist movements, scholars, human rights activists and some state government institutions have drawn attention to the possibility of worsening violence against women. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, highlighted that this problem can increase during the quarantine, because the home can be a place of fear and abuse for women and children, and also indicated the need to federal entities promote constant actions to defend women and combat domestic violence.

News about the increase in notifications of cases of domestic violence during the quarantine were published on international and national websites, exposing examples from countries such as China, France and Spain, in addition to the cities of Paris and Rio de Janeiro. According to published material, the Judiciary Department of Justice of Rio de Janeiro recorded that cases of domestic violence in the state increased by 50% in the last days of social isolation. The Government of Spain has launched an action guide for women who suffer gender-based violence in situations of stay at home, resulting from the state of alarm for Covid-19. Paris also announced priority mobilization measures for social services to respond to cases of violence.

I carried out a survey, between March 22 and 29, 2020, on the portals of the State Governments, Social Assistance Secretariats, Public Security Secretariats and Civil Police of all the States of Brazil and the Federal District, to find out if they were promoting campaigns and actions on measures to combat violence against women in times of Covid-19. I detected that eleven states published, in some of their bodies, some specific type of information and/or campaign on how to proceed in cases of domestic violence. In one of the states, the material was released by the CPI on feminicide, linked to the Legislative Assembly.

None of the campaigns were constructed to consider issues such as disability, class, race, ethnicity, sexuality and territorialization. It is necessary to point out that it is the most needy women, who live in more remote regions and live with many people in small rooms who may suffer more from confinement. Let us also think that the functioning of the protection and reception networks is with a reduction of employees in this quarantine phase. It is worth highlighting the lack of attention paid to rural, riverside and forest women, who are often oblivious to all forms of public policies.

The press and various social media also show that there are people who are concerned and supportive of women in situations of violence. Mobilization, in some cases, comes with tickets, which are posted in elevators of buildings or other public places. One of the messages that gained notoriety brought the following message, “Aggressor neighbor, pandemic or not, violence against women is a crime!! You will not hide behind Covid-19! (...) Dear neighbor, if you need help, run here. Apt 602. You are not alone”. On the other hand, the current president of Brazil justified the increase in domestic violence, in times of Covid-19, with the argument that “in a house that lacks bread, everyone fights and no one is right. Have to work".

The figures announced by the Brazilian Public Safety Yearbook (BRASIL, 2019) highlight that the country recorded, in 2018, 263.067 cases of intentional bodily harm, in the form of domestic violence. This is an average of 126,2 cases per 1.206 inhabitants, that is, one record every two minutes. The Yearbook also showed that femicide in the country daily takes on dramatic proportions. There were 2018 records recorded in 30. In cases of femicide, studies show that black women are the ones who die the most in the country. The peak of mortality occurs at 70.7 years of age. XNUMX% of the women had, at most, primary education, and the perpetrators were their partners or former partners. When the rates of sexual violence are added to the reflection, the issue takes on a dramatic air and throws the spotlight on the process of tearing the bodies and lives of women in situations of violence from the south to the north of Brazil.

Reflecting on these data, it is always necessary to ratify that the problem of violence against women cannot be ignored or left in the background at any time in history, especially now, when we live in social isolation because of this global pandemic. Like Covid-19, violence against women in Brazil is a serious social and public health problem. The Social and Human Sciences have long drawn attention to the fact that this debate must always go beyond the boundaries of the biological and the political. It is more than urgent that we continue to produce knowledge, pointing out with data the interfaces of social problems and affecting the scenarios that are set for humanity.

Patricia Rosalba Salvador Moura Costa is a professor of anthropology at the Federal University of Sergipe (UFS).

Article originally published in Bulletin n. 10 | Social scientists and the coronavirus

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