Women and their unions are battling a double crisis: Covid-19 and domestic violence

Women and their unions are battling a double crisis: Covid-19 and domestic violence

Across the continent, domestic abuse is spiking during the Covid-19 crisis. From Spain to Poland, reported cases are up by over 30 per cent and the number of femicides has more than doubled in the UK. Unions have been turning up the pressure on governments to act. 

Setting up help networks 

“Unions are deeply concerned about the rising number of domestic violence due to Covid 19. Staying home is not staying safe in some cases. Many associations are raising funds to help women facing the situation,” said Cinzia Ongaro, FISAC-Italy. 

Addressing gender-based violence in the world of work has been a key focus of trade unions for some time. Numerous unions have well-established women’s networks to challenge all forms of discrimination. These networks are proving essential in identifying and addressing the alarming hike in cases of domestic violence. 

In Belgium, Femmes CSC put forward a list of best practice to the government. Included were the reinforcement of existing services aimed at supporting victims, opening 24 hour telephone helplines, using pharmacies as outreach facilities and having police check on households with previous cases of domestic violence. 

The gender dimension to this crisis runs deep. Occupational segregation means that a majority of frontline workers who continue to risk their lives to keep our societies running are women. Many of these heroes receive salaries that do not measure up to the essential nature of their work. Now they’re facing increased risk of domestic violence at home too. Whether its through emergency fund-raising or setting best practice, we’re seeing that union women across Europe are leading efforts to address the abuse. Governments must listen to working women and lastingly address this double crisis,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa. 

In Spain, FSC-CCOO launched an awareness raising campaign with a focus on promoting assistance resourcesIn Turkey, where the month of March alone saw 29 femicides, women’s organisations including unions have called for an emergency action plan and for special training for law enforcement officers. In France, CGT Unilever has called for the government to requisition empty housing to accommodate for victims of domestic violence as well as provide them free access to essential goods. 

Domestic violence and the world of work 

Unions have long insisted on a hollistic assesment of barriers that discriminate women in the world of work. Last year, unions were successfuin their efforts to include domestic violence protections in the International Labour Organization’s landmark Violence and Harrassment Convention 190 (ILO C190)While this is an important step, the Convention must now be ratified by national governments for these measures to enter into force. We are living an unprecedented scenario that will have enormous repercussions and a critical impact for the safety of all female workers across Europe where domestic violence has tripled. During the lockdown, victims trapped at home and facing abuses limit women’s ability to get away from violence, and place them in an unsafe environment which is both the living and working place. We are flagging the issue as urgent joint measures need to be taken to protect the health and safety of all European citizens. The ratification of ILO C190 is now crucial. As well, unions have an important role to play to this aim,” said Amel Djemail, UNI Europa Director of Equal Opportunities.  

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