The World Health Organisation has warned that stay-at-home orders and quarantine measures taken to try to reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic will likely lead to an increase in domestic violence.
“Women in abusive relationships are more likely to be exposed to violence, as are their children, as family members spend more time in close contact, and families cope with additional stress and potential economic or job losses,” said WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Speaking to reporters Friday about the coronavirus pandemic, he called on countries to include services for addressing domestic violence in their COVID-19 response.
In France, the government has launched a number of measures to allow women to seek help while shopping for essential items.
French pharmacies are remaining open during the nationwide lockdown, and women are being urged to go to them for help so that a pharmacist can discreetly call the police.
“In a pharmacy, you always have someplace to talk to the chemist without being heard by anybody, so you can say what you think, even about such a problem, and be sure that nobody can hear,” Paris pharmacist Gilles Burbot told CBS News.
If a woman is not able to go to the pharmacy on her own, she can still raise an alarm by using the code words “Mask 19” — making it sound as though she is just trying to buy a mask.
Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa announced that pop-up help centers would open in shopping malls around the country, so that women could drop in for help while getting groceries.
Schiappa, who previously warned that the lockdown would create a “breeding ground for violence,” also announced that the government would pay for up to 20,000 hotel nights for women who were too afraid to go home.
The French interior minister said that reports of domestic abuse to police have jumped by 36% in Paris and 32% in the rest of France since the nationwide lockdown began on March 17.
The WHO Director General said it was important for women who fear violence to seek support.
“Make a plan to protect yourself and your children any way you can,” he advised. “This could include having a neighbor, friend, relative, or shelter identified to go to should you need to leave the house immediately.”
“There is never any excuse for violence,” he concluded. “We abhor all violence of all forms, at all times.”