With millions of people in China spending time indoors, rights activists say there have been increasing instances of domestic violence.
Guo Jing, a female activist who had only moved to Wuhan – the origin of the virus – in November 2019, says she has personally received enquiries from young people living in the quarantined city about witnessing domestic violence. She commented that callers often had no idea who to ask for help. Additionally, there have been reports of women seeking to leave their village or town being refused permits by the police due to the increased risk of spreading the virus.
Further warnings regarding increases in abusive behaviour are also being reported in the UK. Claire Barnett, the executive director for UN Women UK, said there is “clear evidence” that economic and social disruption internationally increases the likelihood of domestic violence. She says “When communities undergo additional stress – from disease, to drought, to their local football team losing a match – rates of violence rise,”
Commentators explain that this is partly because isolation and financial abuse are common features of domestic abuse relationships and this can exploited more during a pandemic. “The imposition of self-isolation can amplify the abuser’s ability to restrict women’s freedoms and leave them at heightened risk,” Hitchen the campaigns manager for the End Violence Against Women Coalition explained.