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Because We Matter

Overview

Because We Matter: Addressing COVID-19 and Violence against Girls in Asia-Pacific

Asia is home to more than half of the world’s 1.1 billion girls. Gender inequality in many parts of the region means that girls are often systematically disadvantaged and oppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination. Girls’ development is hampered by child, early and forced marriage and high adolescent pregnancy rates. Across the region, gender- based violence against girls and women constitutes a serious and widespread rights violation, particularly with regard to domestic violence, marital rape, and trafficking in women and girls.

Written with Save The Children Asia, this thematic policy brief aims to seek and secure commitment from regional and national leaders to urgently prioritize and invest consistently in the protection of girls, who are disproportionately exposed to multitude forms of violence and their devastating consequences. It provides evidence and raises concerns of girls’ vulnerability to combined and complex risks that are further intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Summary

Background

 Asia is home to more than half of the world’s 1.1 billion girls. Gender inequality in many parts of the region means that girls are often systematically disadvantaged and oppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination. Girls’ development is hampered by child, early and forced marriage and high adolescent pregnancy rates. Across the region, gender-based violence against girls and women constitutes a serious and widespread rights violation, particularly with regard to domestic violence, marital rape, and trafficking in women and girls. 

 Emerging data shows that since the outbreak of COVID-19, violence against girls and women, particularly domestic violence, has intensified. UN Women has described gender-based violence (GBV) as a “shadow pandemic” coinciding with COVID-19 across the world. Globally, 243 million girls and women aged 15-49 have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence over the previous 12 months. This number is likely to increase as security, health and income concerns heighten tensions aggravated by confined living conditions.

Partly due to containment measures during COVID-19, systems and services that are mandated to prevent, identify and respond to violence against children are operating with limited or no capacity. Inadequate levels of government and donor investments in child protection, as well as gaps in functionality of systems and effective enforcement of laws and policies to end violence against children have been pervasive. These existing challenges have been further exacerbated by the pandemic outbreak and are now affecting all children, while disproportionately impacting girls. 

Violence against children, and girls in particular, has long been a silent emergency that is now threatening to escalate dramatically. As the UN Secretary-General declared when reaffirming zero tolerance for violence against children: “It is high time to change the continuum of violence that shapes children’s lives to a continuum of protection of their human rights.” In April, responding to a horrifying surge in violence”, the Secretary-General called for a global ceasefire on domestic violence against women and girls,iii while urging countries to make prevention and redress of gender-based violence a key part of their COVID-19 responses.