SANTIAGO — In 2019, the UN recorded that a total of 243 million women worldwide suffered from physical or sexual violence. The organization has released several reports this year which reveal domestic violence has increased 20% throughout the world during the pandemic. In Chile, the number of complaints for domestic violence has not increased compared to last year, but the number of calls to emergency services has doubled and even tripled in some regions.
Violence towards women has been an issue that many organizations around the world have been fighting against for many years. According to data from UN Women, 1 in 3 women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence and, in most cases, it comes from an intimate partner.
Quarantine measures have worsened the situation for many women that now find themselves locked up with their abusers. A document made by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that as a result of pandemic restrictions, at least 15 million more cases of domestic violence are expected around the world in 2020.
The report reveals other alarming figures: for every 3 months of lockdown, 15 million additional cases of gender-based violence can be expected to occur. UNFPA states that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely “to cause a one-third reduction in progress towards ending gender-based violence by 2030.”
Violence Against Women in Chile: The Numbers
Data from “Red Chilena Contra la Violencia Hacia las Mujeres” (Chilean Network Against Violence Towards Women) shows that so far, during 2020, there have been 29 femicides. Apart from that, 48 femicides have been attempted in the country.
According to the Chilean prosecutor’s office, from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2020, there have been 65,990 domestic violence reports filed with the police. Out of those, 50,131 have been filed by women. That means 76% of all reports for domestic violence belong to cases of violence against women in Chile.
The number of reports for domestic violence has not increased when compared to last year’s figures. However, a study published by The Clinic shows that calls made to 1455 – the hotline of the National Service of Women and Gender Equality – have increased by 229% between March and June.
UN Women estimates that less than 40% of women who are victims of domestic violence report their offenders or seek help. The situation is even more challenging now that mobility restrictions are in place, since victims don’t have the same access to reach police stations or help centers. That would explain why the number of reports has not increased, but calls have tripled.
Data from the National Service of Women and Gender Equality (SernamEG) show how emergency calls have increased exponentially. In January, 5,103 calls reached the hotline for women who are victims of domestic violence, while in May the number of calls was 16,700. That is an increase of more than 200%.
Government Plans To Help Violence Victims During Lockdown
During these months of lockdown, the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality has strengthened the networks available for victims of violence. On Apr. 21 they announced, along with SernamEG, the “Chat 1455”. It is a 24/7 online platform where women report if they are experiencing any form of violence.
On Apr. 28, SernamEG launched “WhatsApp Mujer” (WhatsApp for Women), another platform aimed at providing help to women who are victims of violence during the pandemic. Like Chat 1455, this tool is also available 24/7, it is confidential, and its objective is to provide information, guidance, and emotional support to victims of violence.
In May, the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality announced a third way in which victims of violence can ask for help. It is called “Mascarilla 19” (Facemask 19) and the idea is that, if a woman goes into a pharmacy and asks for a “facemask 19”, pharmacy staff will immediately know it is a case of violence and they will proceed to write down the victim’s details pass that information on to the 1455 emergency hotline or the police.
The pattern of violence against women is mirrored in every country. Same as in Chile, many organizations and governments around the world are strengthening the networks for women who suffer domestic violence, as Covid-19 has isolated them even more.
Edited by Claudio Moraga
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant