Surveys suggest violence against women has increased during the pandemic, according to a UN report.

The coronavirus pandemic makes women feel more vulnerable to abuse, sexual harassment and violence, which in turn harms their mental health and emotional well-being, according to a report by UN Women, a United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality.

Forty-five percent of women surveyed in 13 countries reported that they or a woman they knew had experienced some form of violence since the start of the pandemic, and the women who said it were 1.3 times more likely than the other respondents to more mental and emotional stress.

In the surveys, violence against women was defined as physical abuse; name-calling; the denial of basic needs such as health care, food and shelter; refusing to communicate with other people, including being forced to be alone for long periods of time; and sexual harassment.

The countries surveyed were Albania, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay, Thailand and Ukraine. UN Women said the countries were selected on the basis of regional diversity, giving priority to low- and middle-income countries implementing the organization’s programs.

The report was released ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which falls on Thursday and kicks off an annual 16-day campaign of activism against gender-based violence.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Four in ten women said they feel less safe in public spaces.

  • One in four said that conflicts in the household were more frequent, and the same percentage felt less safe in their home.

  • Seven in ten said they thought verbal or physical assault by a partner was more common.

  • Six in ten said they thought sexual harassment in public had worsened.

  • Three in ten said they thought violence against women in their community had increased.

“The Covid-19 pandemic, which necessitated isolation and social distancing, has enabled a second shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls, often incarcerated with their abusers,” said Sima Bahous, the executive director of UN Women and a former Jordanian ambassador. “Our new data underscores the urgency of concerted efforts to end this.”

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