In response to COVID-19, many governments imposed strict restrictions on freedom of movement. This strategy has proven to be effective in reducing the spread of the pandemic and saving lives. However, many women and girls have suffered as a result of the confinement measures which have increased the risk of domestic violence. Girls and women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence at this time. The full ratification and implementation of the Istanbul convention on preventing and combating violence against women therefore remains a priority. Autism-Europe released a new document in easy-to-read format about the Istanbul Convention to support more accessible information on the topic, ahead of EDF’s dedicated webinar.
The Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (2011) is a human rights treaty which seeks to prevent violence against women in all forms. It is a key instrument and Autism-Europe is actively advocating alongside the European Disability Forum and other allies for its full ratification and implementation by the European Union and its member states. It is essential that the needs of disabled women are adequately addressed in this process, notably by ensuring full accessibility to information and services. The current situation linked to COVID-19 highlights the pressing need for an adequate response to gender-based violence with a focus on the difficulties faced by women with disabilities.
Both globally and in some EU countries, it has been reported that cases of domestic violence rose by a third in the week after lockdown was put in place. Women facing domestic violence are not able to leave their homes and as a result, are exposed to their abuser for longer periods of time. This makes it difficult for them to access the help they need. Women with disabilities are 2 to 5 times more likely to be victims of violence than women without disabilities and are subjected to forced sterilisation and abortions against their will. Those with psychosocial disabilities are at higher risk, especially when they are segregated in institutions.
The UN Population Fund conducted an impact report of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Planning and Ending Gender-based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage . The report found that for every 3 months of lockdown due to the pandemic, an additional 15 million cases of gender-based violence are expected to arise. On ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), due to pandemic-related disruptions in prevention programmes, 2 million FGM cases could occur over the next decade that would otherwise have been averted. On ending child marriage, planned efforts to end child marriage will be disrupted and will cause wide-reaching economic consequences. Together, this is expected to result in an additional total of 13 million child marriages taking place that otherwise would not have occurred between 2020 and 2030.
EDF hosted a webinar on the Istanbul Convention on May 8, 2020. The webinar featured the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) who discussed the relevance of the Istanbul Convention for women and girls with disabilities and how to contribute to its implementation with the goal to end violence against all women and girls. The webinar featured the experiences of persons with disabilities who monitored the implementation of the Convention and reported on violence of women and girls with disabilities to GREVIO.
Watch the video recording of the webinar here