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Rising violence against women in Latin America confirms fears of abuses in lockdowns

by Christine Murray | @chrissiemurray | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 9 June 2020 20:04 GMT

A woman waits at a subway station during the "A Day Without Women" protest, as part of the escalation of historic protests against gender violence, in Mexico City, Mexico March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

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Concerns had been raised that violence against women would rise in Latin America during lockdowns implemented to help slow the spread of the coronavirus

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By Christine Murray

MEXICO CITY, June 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Violence against women has soared in Latin America during the coronavirus pandemic, with a 50% increase in domestic abuse reports in Colombia alone, a top aid group said on Tuesday, confirming fears that lockdowns would put many women in danger.

Femicide, the murder of women because of gender, rose 65% in Venezuela in April, and online searches for protection from gender-based violence increased 30-fold in El Salvador and Honduras, U.S.-based nonprofit International Rescue Committee said in a report.

Concerns had been raised that violence against women would rise in Latin America, where almost 20 million women and girls suffer sexual and physical violence each year, during lockdowns implemented to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Prosecutors, victim support groups, advocates and the United Nations all raised fears that women would be locked at home with their abusers and unable to leave to get help.

"Women and adolescent girls... in confined spaces 24 hours of the day, some completely stuck with their perpetrators," said IRC Latin America director Meghan Lopez.

Latin America is now a center of the global pandemic, with more than one million cases across different countries and many yet to reach the peak.

"I would say right now the epidemic in Central and South America is the most complex of all of the situations we face globally," said Michael Ryan, top emergencies expert at the World Health Organization, on Monday.

In Mexico, emergency calls reporting attacks on women in Mexico jumped more than 50% in the first four months of the year compared with the same period last year, government data showed.

The country's president has denied the rising violence.

The Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace reported a 70% increase in complaints of violence against women in Central America between mid-March and late-May.

But the numbers may be an undercount, as women find it harder to seek help or report abuse with lockdowns in place.

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Ethiopia taps army of women health workers to fight coronavirus

(Reporting by Christine Murray; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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