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COVID-19 intensifies ‘brutal crime’ of sexual violence in conflict

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COVID-19 intensifies ‘brutal crime’ of sexual violence in conflict

Mainly perpetrated against women and girls, CRSV also affects men and boys.

“It reverberates throughout communities and societies, perpetuating cycles of violence and threatening international peace and security”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for the day.

And the already dramatically under-reported crime has been buried further by the coronavirus during national lockdowns, limiting the ability of survivors to report incidents, further intensifying existing structural, institutional and socio-cultural barriers to reporting the crimes. 

Combating CRSV crimes

Combating impunity for sexual violence is central in deterring and preventing CRSV crimes. It is also an essential component in redress for victims. 
Among many other aspects, COVID-19 is significantly and detrimentally impacting the rule of law, including by limiting the availability and capacity of law enforcement and judicial authorities to respond to CRSV. 

Moreover, the pandemic hinders the processing of reports on incidents of sexual violence and risks deprioritizing services needed by survivors, including in shelters, health care services, police and justice sector services. 

Help obscured

Closed shelters, cancelled counselling services and diverted resources are also severely impacting a range of medical, psychosocial and legal services required to support CRSV survivors. 

And fear of the virus spreading adds to barrier in accessing services. 

Survivors of sexual violence may be less willing to seek help because of perceived risks of contracting COVID-19, fearing infection and potentially transmitting the virus to their families. 

Lockdown violence 

Stay-at-home restrictions have also contributed to an increase in domestic and gender-based violence. 

Women and girls already in abusive situations are more exposed to increased control and abuse, with little or no recourse to seek support. 

Marking the occasion

On this sixth official observance of the International Day, a virtual event was co-hosted on Friday by the UN Offices on Sexual Violence in Conflict and for Children and Armed Conflict, along with Argentina’s Mission to the UN.

Among other things, it outlined the toll of the coronavirus on the lives of survivors, delivery of services and the UN’s work as a whole. 

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