Action: Call for a Feminist COVID-19 Policy

Dear Reader,

Below you’ll find open letter prepared by the Feminist Alliance for Rights (FAR) Steering Committee calling on all Member States to adopt a feminist policy to address the COVID-19 outbreak.  Please fill out this form to let us know if you and/or your organization would like to sign the letter, by  Thursday, March 26 at 8pm EDT . The sign-on form is available in this link: tiny.cc/endorsenow

Statement of Feminists and Women’s Rights Organizations from the Global South and marginalized communities in the Global North

We, the undersigned organizations committed to feminist principles and women’s human rights, call on governments to recall and act in accordance with human rights standards in their response to COVID-19 and uphold the principles of equality and non-discrimination, centering the most marginalized people — women, children, elderly, people with disabilities, people with compromised health, rural people, unhoused people, institutionalized people, , refugees, migrants, indigenous peoples, stateless people, and people in war zones. Feminist policy recognizes and prioritizes the needs of the most vulnerable communities. Beyond the response to this pandemic, it is necessary for the development of peaceful, inclusive and prosperous communities within human rights-driven states.

It is critical that governments utilize a human rights and intersectional based approach to ensure that everyone has access to necessary information, support systems and resources during the current crisis. We have recognized nine key areas of focus to be considered in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. They are listed below with brief descriptions of potential challenges and recommendations that consider the lived experiences of people in vulnerable position — especially women and girls that endure a disproportionate impact due to their sex, gender, and sexual orientation — and steer policymakers toward solutions that do not exacerbate their vulnerabilities or magnify existing inequality and ensure their human rights.

These guidelines are not a replacement for the engagement of women and girls and other marginalized communities in decision-making, but a rationale for consultation and diversity in leadership.

Key Focus Areas for a Feminist Policy on COVID-19

Food security. In countries that depend on food imports, there are fears of closing borders and markets and the inability to access food. This concern is exacerbated for people experiencing poverty and in rural communities, especially women, who do not have easy access to city centers and major grocery stores and markets. This leads to people with the means purchasing large quantities of goods which limits availability for those with lower incomes who are not able to do the same and are likely to face shortages when they attempt to replenish their food supplies. In response to this challenge, we call on governments to:

  • Increase — or introduce —  food stamps and subsidies, both in quantity for those already receiving them and in expansion of access to include those who become more vulnerable due to current circumstances
  • Direct businesses to ration nonperishable food supply to control inventory and increase access for those who, due to their income levels, must purchase over a longer period of time
  • Send food supply to rural communities to be stored and distributed as needed to eliminate the delay in accessing supply in city centers and safeguard against shortages due to delays in shipping
  • Send food supply to people unable to leave their homes (e.g. disabled people living alone or in remote areas)

Healthcare. All countries expect a massive strain on their public health systems due to the spread of the virus, and this can lead to decreased maternal health and increased infant mortality rates. There is often lack of access to healthcare services and medical supplies in rural communities. The elderly, people with disabilities, and people with compromised or suppressed immune systems are at high risk, and may not have live-in support systems. The change in routine and spread of the virus can create or exacerbate mental health issues. This crisis has a disproportionate impact on women who form, according to the World Health Organization’s March 2019 Gender equity in the health workforce working paper, 70% of workers in the health and social sector, according to the World Health Organization. It also disproportionately affects those who provide care for others.

 In response to this challenge, we call on governments to:

  • Ensure the availability of sex-disaggregated data and gender analysis, including differentiated infection and mortality rates.
  • Increase availability and delivery of healthcare services and responders, medical supplies, and medications 
  • Ensure women’s timely access to necessary sexual and reproductive health services during the crisis, such as emergency contraception and safe abortion 
  • Maintain an adequate stock of menstrual hygiene products at healthcare and community facilities
  • Train medical staff and frontline social workers  to recognize signs of domestic violence and provide appropriate resources and services
  • Develop a database of high-risk people who live alone and establish a system and a network to maintain regular contact with and deliver supplies to them
  • Provide for the continued provision of health care services based on non-biased medical research and tests — unrelated to the virus — for women and girls
  • Implement systems to effectively meet mental health needs including accessible (e.g. sign language, captions) telephone/videocall hotlines, virtual support groups, emergency services, and delivery of medication
  • Support rehabilitation centers to remain open for people with disabilities and chronic illness
  • Direct all healthcare institutions to provide adequate health care services to people regardless of health insurance status, immigration status and affirm the rights of migrant people and stateless people — with regular and irregular migration status — and unhoused people to seek medical attention to be free from discrimination, detention, and deportation
  • Ensure health service providers and all frontline staff receive adequate training and have access to equipment to protect their own health and offer mental health support
  • Assess and meet the specific needs of women health service providers

Education. The closure of schools is necessary for the protection of children, families, and communities and will help to flatten the curve so that the peak infection rate stays manageable. It, however, presents a major disruption in education and the routine to which children are accustomed. In many cases, children who depend on the school lunch program will face food insecurity. They also become more vulnerable to violence in their homes and communities which can go undetected due to no contact. School closures also have a disproportionate burden on women who traditionally undertake a role as caregivers. In response to this challenge, we call on governments to:

  • Direct educational institutions to prepare review and assignment packages for children to keep them academically engaged and prevent setbacks and provide guidance for parents on the use of the material
  • Create educational radio programming appropriate for school-age children
  • Subsidize childcare for families unable to make alternate arrangements for their children
  • Expand free internet access to increase access to online educational platforms and material and enable children to participate in virtual and disability-accessible classroom sessions where available
  • Provide laptops for children who need them in order to participate in on-line education
  • Adopt measures to ensure they continue receiving food by making sure it can be delivered or collected
  • Provide extra financial and mental health support for families caring for children with disabilities

Social inequality. These exist between men and women, citizens and migrants, people with regular and irregular migration status, people with and without disabilities, neurotypical and neuroatypical people, and other perceived dichotomies or non-binary differences as well as racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Existing vulnerabilities are further complicated by loss of income, increased stress, and unequal domestic responsibilities. Women and girls will likely have increased burdens of caregiving which will compete with (and possibly replace) their paid work or education. Vulnerable communities are put at further risk when laws are enacted, or other measures are introduced, that restrict their movement and assembly, particularly when they have less access to information or ability to process it. In response to this challenge, we call on governments to:

  • Encourage the equitable sharing of domestic tasks in explicit terms and through allowances for time off and compensation for all workers
  • Provide increased access to sanitation and emergency shelter spaces for homeless people.
  • Implement protocol and train authorities on recognizing and engaging vulnerable populations, particularly where new laws are being enforced
  • Consult with civil society organizations the process of implementing legislation and policy
  • Ensure equal access to information, public health education and resources in multiple languages, including sign and indigenous peoples languages, accessible formats, and easy-to-read and plain languages 

Water and sanitation. Everyone does not have access to clean running water. In response to this challenge, we call on governments to:

  • Ensure infrastructure is in place for clean, potable water to be piped into homes and delivered to underserved areas
  • Cease all disconnections and waive all reconnection fees to provide everyone with clean, potable water
  • Bring immediate remedy to issues of unclean water
  • Build public handwashing stations in communities

Economic inequality. People are experiencing unemployment, underemployment, and loss of income due to the temporary closure of businesses, reduced hours, and limited sick leave, vacation, personal time off and stigmatization. This negatively impacts their ability to meet financial obligations, generates bigger debts, and makes it difficult for them to acquire necessary supplies. Due to closures and the need for social distancing, there is also lack of care options and ability to pay for care for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. This produces a labor shift from the paid or gig economy to unpaid economy as family care providers. In response to this challenge, we call on governments to:

  • Implement moratoriums on evictions due to rental and mortgage arrears and deferrals of rental and mortgage payments for those affected, directly or indirectly, by the virus and for people belonging to vulnerable groups 
  • Provide Universal Basic Income for those with lost income
  • Provide financial support to unhoused people, refugees, and women’s shelters
  • Provide additional financial aid to elderly people and people with disabilities
  • Expedite the distribution of benefits 
  • Modify sick leave, parental and care leave, and personal time off policies
  • Direct businesses to invite employees to work remotely on the same financial conditions as agreed prior to pandemic 
  • Distribute packages with necessities including soap, disinfectants, and hand sanitizer

Violence against women, domestic violence/Intimate partner violence (DV/IPV). Rates and severity of domestic violence/intimate partner violence against women, including sexual and reproductive violence, will likely surge as tension rises. Mobility restrictions (social distance, self-isolation, extreme lockdown, or quarantine) will also increase survivors’ vulnerability to abuse and need for protection services. (See Economic inequality.) Escape will be more difficult as the abusive partner will be at home all the time. Children face particular protection risks, including increased risks of abuse and/or being separated from their caregivers. Accessibility of protection services will decline if extreme lockdown is imposed as public resources are diverted. Women and girls fleeing violence and persecution will not be able to leave their countries of origin or enter asylum countries because of the closure of borders and travel restrictions. 

 In response to this challenge, we call on governments to:

  • Establish separate units within police departments and telephone hotlines to report domestic violence
  • Increase resourcing for nongovernmental organizations that respond to domestic violence and provide assistance — including shelter, counselling, and legal aid —  to survivors, and promote those that remain open are available
  • Disseminate information about gender-based violence and publicize resources and services available
  • Direct designated public services, including shelters, to remain open and accessible
  • Ensure protection services implement programs that have emergency plans that include protocols to ensure safety for residents and clients
  • Develop protocol for the care of women who may not be admitted due to exposure to the virus which includes safe quarantine and access to testing
  • Make provisions for domestic violence survivors to attend court proceedings via accessible teleconference
  • Direct police departments to respond to all domestic violence reports and connect survivors with appropriate resources
  • Ensure women and girls and other people in vulnerable positions are not rejected at the border, have access to the territory and to asylum legal procedures. If needed, they will be given access to testing

Access to information. There is unequal access to reliable information, especially for those structurally discriminated against and belonging to marginalized communities. People will need to receive regular updates from national health authorities for the duration of this crisis. In response to this challenge, we call on governments to:

  • Launch public campaigns to prevent and contain the spread of the virus
  • Consult and work with civil society in all initiatives to provide information to the public
  • Make information available to the public in plain language and accessible means, modes and formats, including internet, radio and text messages
  • Ensure people with disabilities have access to information through sign language, closed captions, and other appropriate means 
  • Increase subsidies to nongovernmental organizations that will ensure messages translated and delivered through appropriate means to those who speak different languages or have specific needs
  • Build and deploy a task force to share information and resources with vulnerable people with specific focus on unhoused, people with disabilities, migrant, refugees, and neuroatypical people

Abuse of power. People in prisons, administrative migration centers, refugee camps, and people with disabilities in institutions and psychiatric facilities are at higher risk of contagion due to the confinement conditions. They can also become more vulnerable to abuse or neglect as a result of limited external oversight and restriction of visits. It is not uncommon for authorities to become overzealous in their practices related to enforcement of the law and introduction of new laws. During this crisis, vulnerable people, especially dissidents, are at a higher risk of having negative, potentially dangerous interactions with authorities. In response to this challenge, we call on governments to:

  • Adopt human rights-oriented protocols to reduce spreading of the virus in detention and confinement facilities
  • Strengthen external oversight and facilitate safe contact with relatives i.e. free telephone calls
  • Encourage law enforcement officers to focus on increasing safety rather than arrests
  • Train law enforcement officers, care workers, and social workers to recognize vulnerabilities and make necessary adjustments in their approach and engagement
  • Support civil society organizations and country Ombudsmen/Human Rights Defenders in monitoring the developments within those institutions on a regular basis
  • Consult any changes in existing laws with civil rights societies and Ombudsmen/Human Rights Defenders 
  • Commit to discontinuing emergency laws and powers once pandemic subsides and restore the check and balances mechanism

Endorse this statement as an individual or representative of an organization by Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 8pm EDT. The statement and signatures will be sent to Member States.

http://feministallianceforrights.org/blog/2020/03/20/action-call-fo...

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Alcohol sales banned in Greenland capital during lockdown

Move aims to cut violence against children during coronavirus confinement

Agence France-Presse in Copenhagen, 29 Mar 2020

The alcohol ban came into force on Saturday and is scheduled to last until 15 April

The sale of alcohol has been banned in the Greenland capital, Nuuk, in an attempt to reduce violence against children during the period of confinement caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

“In such a situation, we have to take numerous measures to avoid infection,” the prime minister, Kim Kielsen, said on Saturday.

“But at the heart of my decision is the protection of children; they have to have a safe home.”

Nearly one in three people living in the autonomous Danish Arctic territory suffered sexual abuse during childhood. Experts link the abuse to alcohol, drugs and ignorance of children’s rights.

After Greenland closed down schools on Monday with 10 cases of coronavirus diagnosed, a rise in violence followed.
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“Unfortunately, in Nuuk, domestic violence has been on the rise in recent weeks,” the health minister, Martha Abelsen, told local media. Excessive drinking by parents exposed children to dangers in the home, Greenlanders were warned.

The alcohol ban came into force on Saturday and is scheduled to last until 15 April.

Gatherings of more than 10 people have also been banned and air traffic halted to help fight the virus.

The restriction on alcohol also targets the slowing down of contamination rates. “People are less aware of the dangers of contamination when they drink alcohol,” the statement added.

The government says it is committed to eliminating the sexual abuse of minors by 2022.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/29/alcohol-sales-banned-...

COVID-19: Ontario confirms 27 new deaths, federal funds for homeless, women fleeing violence
by Megan Gillis, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA -- April 4, 2020 -- People line up outside of Fire & Flower Cannabis Co. cannabis store, before the stores close at midnight hit, Sunday, April 4, 2020.

What you need to know, at a glance

  • Ontario is reporting 27 new deaths due to COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon bringing the total to 94 and 375 new confirmed cases, an 11.5 per cent increase over Friday that brings total cases to 3,630.
  • The Ottawa Hospital declares an outbreak after inpatient contracts COVID-19 at Civic Campus.
    20 new cases in Ottawa, according to provincial figures. Total in Ottawa now 309.
  • Federal government announces $207.5 million in immediate funding to help people the “uniquely vulnerable,” including people who are homeless and women fleeing violence.
  • “Millions of masks” on chartered flight expected in coming days, prime minister says, as Trump orders halt to exports by 3M.
  • Ontario could see between 3,000 to 15,000 deaths due to COVID-19 with the current public health measures in place
  • However, officials say 100,000 people could have died in Ontario during the course of the pandemic without the province’s current measures
  • Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has offered free use of the Canadian Tire Centre, its parking lots and possibly three Sensplex arenas as temporary care centres to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • More extreme measures need to be taken to limit the spread of the virus, say officials
    Premier Doug Ford announced on Friday the government is closing “many more sectors of the economy” as of midnight Saturday
  • Ottawa is reporting 37 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the city’s total known case count to 289
  • Jim Watson said three free licensed municipal child-care centres in Ottawa will open April 13 for the children of eligible essential workers
  • Bylaw officers will start fining people who disregard COVID-19 restrictions on Friday

Ottawa COVID-19 Update April 3: Province projects up to 15,000 deaths

A total of 94 Ontarians have died of COVID-19 as the province reported 27 new deaths Saturday morning and an 11.5 per cent increase in confirmed cases to 3,630.

Four more Ontario long-term care homes reported outbreaks, according the Ontario government figures for a total of 36.

While 2.6 per cent of confirmed cases have died, a total of 1,219 people – or 33.6 per cent – have recovered since Jan. 26.

Among the 506 patients who have been hospitalized with COVID-19, 196 needed intensive care and 152 required a ventilator.

Of all Ontario cases, 21.3 per cent had travelled in the 14 days prior to becoming ill, and 12.5 per cent had close contact with a confirmed case but 17.9 per cent had neither travel nor close contact and 48.4 per cent were listing as having exposure information “pending.”

Generally, statistics for official diagnoses should be viewed with caution. Testing does not track down all cases in a community because the mild symptoms most people have aren’t distinguishable from common colds, and because public health can’t test large numbers of people.

A total of 71,338 people have now been tested in Ontario.

As of about 11 a.m. there were 12,922 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada. There have been 214 deaths, and 2,467 resolved.

At a news briefing Saturday, Premier Doug Ford expressed some frustration with the federal governments of both Canada and the U.S. over the controversy of the U.S. government blocking the shipments of N95 protective masks from 3M Corp. of Minnesota.

“There’s no one who loves the United States as much as i do,” Ford said. “I don’t understand why they would do this.”

“How would the governor of Michigan feel if we went to them and said: ‘You know those 1,000 nurses who travel from Windsor to work in Detroit? Well we need them, sorry’.”

Caught in the crossfire, London, Ont.-based 3M Canada is “looking at every possible way” to meet demand for medical masks in Canada.

Ford also bristled at a mention by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier in the day, who said that masks for Quebec were among the “millions” of protective masks en route to Canada in a ship from China.

“I have a tremendous relationship with the deputy prime minister (Chrystia Freeland) and I believe what she and the prime minister tell me.

“I’m just expecting Ontario will get 40 per cent of those masks. If we had 10 per cent of the population, I’d expect 10 per cent” of the masks.

The province pushed out an emergency alert to cellphones urging residents to continue to heed the protective anti-COVID-19 measures.

Meanwhile, the federal government announced Saturday that Ottawa homeless shelters will get more than $7.2 million in funding to use during the pandemic for needs like buying more beds and physical barriers for social distancing and paying for other places to stay to reduce overcrowding.

It’s because “Canadians experiencing homelessness are at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19,” Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen said, adding that he believes the extra cash “will go a long way to effectively supporting those who need it most.”

It’s part of a $207.5 million in immediate funding to help people the government describes as “uniquely vulnerable,” including people who are homeless and women fleeing violence.

The existing Reaching Home program tackling homelessness has been allotted $157.5 million; $40 million goes to Women and Gender Equality Canada, up to $30 million of which will address immediate needs of shelters and sexual assault centres.

No Ottawa-specific figures were released but $26 million will go to Women’s Shelters Canada to distribute to approximately 575 violence against women shelters across the country and up to $4 million to the Canadian Women’s Foundation to distribute to sexual assault centres across the country. A total of $10 million will go to Indigenous Services Canada’s existing network of 46 emergency shelters.

“We’ve asked Canadians to self-isolate and to stay home in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But not every home is safe,” Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef said, adding that the funding will support hundreds of women’s shelters, sexual assault centres and Indigenous women’s organizations.

“Our goal is to support the organizations who provide vital services to survivors of gender-based violence so they can prevent and respond to COVID outbreaks, stay safe and continue being a lifeline to those who need them most. To those experiencing domestic violence and gender-based violence: speak to someone you trust and seek help. You are not alone.”

On Friday, the provincial government said that physical isolation could save as many as 4,400 lives in Ontario by the end of this month, according to COVID-19 pandemic modelling.

But even with current strategies to limit spread, between 3,000 and 15,000 Ontario residents could die during the course of the pandemic, provincial health officials say.

The numbers show that even with the best case scenario, Ontario’s intensive care capacity will have to be expanded by 900 beds or be overwhelmed.

The current model estimates the province will reach 80,000 cases and 1,600 deaths by the end of April. If the province took more extreme preventions, those numbers would be cut to 12,500 cases and 200 deaths.

“To many people these will be shocking figures … but effective actions have been put in place, remain in place and further actions are being taken,” said Dr. Peter Donnelly, president and CEO of Public Health Ontario.

Without current public health measures, officials say 100,000 people could have died in Ontario during the course of the pandemic – which could last 18 months or even two years because of the potential for smaller secondary or tertiary waves of cases.

These models, “are always an abstraction of what we’re dealing with, and the farther out we go, the more uncertainty there is,” stressed Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

In the longer-term, the health experts said Ontario ought to implement a number of measures to limit cases and fatalities to the greatest extent possible, including reducing the number of workplaces deemed “essential,” using technology to reinforce self-isolation, and more focus on enforcing COVID-19-era rules and issuing fines for non-compliance.

Donnelly said the numbers also highlight the importance of protecting the elderly, as the pandemic ravages long-term care homes in the province.

The province’s testing backlog is largely gone. Now testing of people in long-term care residents and their carers has to be priority, said Donnelly.

https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/covid-19-ontario-confirms...

A Gender Lens for COVID-19

by Susan Papp and Marcy Hersh, Project Syndicate, Mar 27, 2020

Gender is often an ignored factor during health emergencies, even though women comprise 70% of the global healthcare workforce. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the most effective policy responses will be those that account for how the crisis is experienced by women and girls.

NEW YORK – When pandemics strike, world leaders and health responders must adapt quickly to the looming threat. Often the last factor they consider – if it makes their to-do lists at all – is gender.

As advocates for the health and rights of girls and women, we’ve heard the excuses time and time again: “Gender isn’t a priority right now,” leaders say. “Maybe when things calm down,” they claim. “It’s not the right time,” they insist. If we are to pursue the most effective responses to COVID-19 – or any health emergency – this must change. 

Girls and women experience outbreaks differently than boys and men. A gender lens highlights the specific risks and vulnerabilities girls and women face because of deep-rooted inequalities and traditional gender roles. And the facts such a perspective uncovers can save lives and ensure that nobody is left behind in our emergency responses. 

To reframe our pandemic response with gender at the center, we need, first, to protect and support the global health workforce, 70% of whom are women. It is crucial that these health workers are trained, resourced, and equipped, which means filling global shortages in protective gear like medical masks and gloves, so that they and their patients are adequately protected. 

It also means tackling the 28% gender pay gap in the global health workforce and ensuring decent and safe working environments with proper protective equipment. This will prevent interruptions in service delivery by ensuring health workers themselves don’t fall ill and by promoting retention as they work around the clock to fight COVID-19. Additionally, we must dismantle the discriminatory system that excludes women health workers from the decision-making bodies that initiate life-saving emergency protocols in health-care settings. 

Likewise, it will be impossible to provide reliable evidence about COVID-19 to health workers, policymakers, and the media without investing in the timely collection of gender- and age-disaggregated data in all surveillance and monitoring efforts. Past health emergencies such as the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic and the 2012 cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone show that the absence of gender-disaggregated data seriously impedes smart decisions, strong responses, and swift recoveries. While these health emergencies may have challenged us in different ways than COVID-19, the need for evidence-based solutions, backed by quality data, remains the same. 

We must also ask how traditional gender roles shape how people of all gender identities and backgrounds experience COVID-19. This means going beyond preliminary data from China that suggests COVID-19 infections are slightly higher among men than women. It also means that we need to assess what makes girls, women, boys, men, and non-binary people vulnerable in the first place.

For example, past health emergencies demonstrate that women’s traditional role as caregivers for sick family members often increases their exposure to infectious diseases through person-to-person contact. This occurred during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, and India’s 2018 fight against Nipah virus in Kerala. In all these cases, large numbers of caregiving girls and women were infected. Knowing this enables caregivers to understand the importance of reinforcing preventive measures in their households, as outlined in the WHO’s COVID-19 prevention guide, and of reporting cases when symptoms first appear. 

While we bolster our medical and epidemiological response to COVID-19, we also must ensure that essential maternal, sexual, and reproductive health services are not disrupted. The West African Ebola outbreak showed that containment efforts can divert staff and supplies from other services women need. This can have disastrous consequences: maternal mortality in the region increased by 75% during the epidemic, and the number of women giving birth in hospitals and health clinics dropped by 30%.The need for access to skilled birth attendants, protection from gender-based violence, contraception, and safe abortion often becomes more acute during outbreaks. COVID-19 is no different in the respect. 

Domestic violence reportedly rose in Wuhan, China, during the city’s two-month lockdown. And people still have sex, experience puberty, menstruate, become pregnant, and give birth during public-health emergencies, so meeting these needs must remain a high priority. That requires promoting women to leadership roles. 

Women are skilled service providers, epidemiologists, caregivers, community leaders, and more. Above all, they are the best experts on their own lives and must be meaningfully engaged in all preparedness and response efforts. That means ensuring the participation of girls and women in all local, national, regional, and global task forces on COVID-19.

Women must serve on local community councils and in legislative bodies where important decisions are made. At the international level, gender imbalances in global health leadership, where men hold 72% of the top positions, must urgently be addressed. With sufficient resources, we can avoid past mistakes and devise responses that apply a gender lens at the outset. While the $15 million and the $14 billion in emergency aid pledged by the United Nations and World Bank, respectively, is a great start, we need additional investment to implement the policies that an effective COVID-19 strategy requires.

For too long, excuses for not using a gender lens during health emergencies have impeded the responses we most need. To protect us all, this time must be different. 

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/covid19-response-requi...

'I was a hostage': Domestic assault calls rise in York Region amid coronavirus crisis

York Regional Police say domestic assaults are on the rise in region as COVID-19 keeps most residents inside
News April 14, 2020 by Jeremy Grimaldi Aurora Banner

Domestic assault in York Region

Lulu Lotus says she's not surprised by the rise in domestic assault calls in York Region since the beginning of March. - Lulu Lotus photo

Before the father of her two children approached her one morning and put a knife to her throat, Lulu Lotus had attempted to leave him four times.

Each time he would call and harangue her and the rest of her family by phone, begging for her to return and promising things would be different.

Each time she would relent and return.

“Things would be good for a bit and then before I knew it, I was in hell again,” she told yorkregion.com

After the knife incident, Lotus came up with a plan. She escaped to a different town at a shelter with surveillance and support to deal with the onslaught of texts and phone calls. Eventually a family member bought her a new phone.

“He had taken my car," she said, "I felt like I was a hostage."

Lotus, who lives in Aurora, imagines there are plenty of women struggling with the same issue amid the current COVID-19 lockdown, where many are no longer working and stuck at home – some with their abuser.

She’s not wrong.

York Regional Police have released figures that show a 23 per cent increase in domestic related calls, which includes everything from verbal family disputes, violence and intimate partner abuse.

Between March 1 and April 6, 2020 police received 987 domestic related calls compared to 802 during the same time in 2019.

Michelle Smith, the executive director of Sandgate Women's Shelter, is not surprised by the data, indicating that any undue stress, let alone the unprecedented situation everyone is going through at the moment, will cause a spike – holidays, economic downturns and massive job loss can all cause spikes in domestic violence.

“We’re definitely seeing (a rise) across our social media and crises lines,” she said. “But my concern is what we’re not seeing. Many women at home aren’t taking the kids to school or at work, being given a chance to make that call … everyone is staying in isolation.”

Looking to the future, Smith said she's dreading a rise in the number of domestic homicides.

“There was one in Durham a month ago and another one in Toronto two weeks ago,” she explained.

Lotus recalls how her abuse would always get worse when her now ex-husband was suffering financial worries or his secret drug habit began to take a turn for the worse.

“He would take it out on me because I was the outlet, I was the punching bag, he would grab me or push me,” she said, before recalling the day he jumped on top of her, pinned her down and screamed in her face or the threats of death he made against her.

Maya Roy, CEO of YWCA Canada, said that on top of victims, shelters are also witnessing a rise in their expenditures in the age of coronavirus, explaining how she was just forced to spend $63,000 on hand sanitizer for the organizations’ 34 shelters and 2,000 subsidized units across the country.

Roy said she’s already heard about a woman in York Region who had a gun pulled on her by her partner of 18 years.

While the woman was able to flee, her problems continue to mount as she has lost her job, is struggling to apply for her emergency response benefit of $2,000 from the government and continues to be harassed with death threats over texts from her abuser's family.

Many victims are not only struggling with financial constraints in these days of little employment, but also with the reduction in service of public transportation and getting their hands on cellphones.

“Just being able to call, that’s been an issue,” she added, explaining it’s not helping that counselling and health services have also been shuttered. “If you are living paycheque to paycheque, how can you get a cab to leave or pay your cell bill?”

In light of these issues, she urged family, friends and neighbours to keep an eye out for warning signs surrounding domestic abuse.

“If you see anything, if you are worried, do a wellness check to see if they are interested in reaching out,” she said. “We have to support one another and build community in times like these.”

Roy added the abuse numbers have been rising all over the country and the world, pointing out that in Italy and Spain women having been signalling they are in trouble by saying a code word to pharmacists.

Quebec is witnessing other isolation-type crimes, including a rise in the sexual exploitation of minors.

York police Sgt. Andy Pattenden said the numbers do not look good.

“The rise in domestic incidents is concerning and we encourage anyone who is in a volatile domestic situation to reach out to our community partners to seek support and guidance and, if you fear for your safety, call 911,” he said.

As for Lotus, although she still has nightmares, often featuring knives, she says she and her boys are in a safe place now.

HOW TO HELP

Donations of money, disinfecting wipes, laundry soap, toilet paper, gift cards and other essential items are welcome.

Visit sandgate.ca to find their contact information or to find out how you can support women and children in shelters, or call Mona at Sandgate at 905-251-4126 to arrange a donation.

You may also drop off donations for Yellow Brick at 52 West Beaver Creek, Unit 4, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Buzz the door – there will be no face-to-face contact.

If you know of a person who has been or is being abused, it’s important now to reach out to them by phone or social media, or to the local shelter.

SEEK HELP FOR YOURSELF

If you need help yourself, dial 1-800-661-8294 or 911 if you’re in immediate danger.

You can also try Sandgate's website or Facebook page. The Yellow Brick House crisis line is open for texts or phone calls 24-7 at 1-800-263-3247.

To talk with someone immediately about your safety needs and safety planning, you can also contact confidential and anonymous provincial crisis lines.

Assaulted Women’s Helpline: 1-866-863-0511

Talk4Healing: 1-855-554-HEAL

Fem’aide: 1-877-336-2433 (French language assistance)

Correction — April 14, 2020: This article has been edited from a previous version that due to incorrect information provided inaccurately portrayed the number of domestic incidents in York Region.

https://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/9939183--i-was-a-hostage-dome...

'Violent Men Are To Blame, Not The Virus’: Lockdown Sees Rise In Women Being Killed
Campaigners warn abusive men are using the outbreak as an excuse for domestic violence as rate of suspected killings doubles.

By Aasma Day, HuffPost UK, April 17, 2020

Abusive men are using coronavirus as an excuse for domestic violence, campaigners have warned as horrifying new figures reveal men are killing women and girls at a rate of almost one a day since lockdown began.

Campaigners have also criticised the “lazy reporting” surrounding the deaths of women in recent weeks, arguing that coronavirus “hasn’t created more killers – it’s violent men who are to blame”.

According to the Counting Dead Women project, which identifies UK women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect, there have been 18 suspected domestic abuse killings of females in 21 days at the hands of men since the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were introduced in the UK.

The figure represents a doubling of the average rate of deaths and highlights the extreme danger faced by women trapped in the same house as their violent person.

The killings took place between March 23 and April 12.

Karen Ingala Smith, founder of Counting Dead Women, told HuffPost UK that data collated over the last decade suggest a woman has been killed every four days by a partner or former partner.

At this rate, Smith says the expected number of women killed by men in 21 days would be seven – but instead she revealed 16 females - including two children - are suspected to have been killed by men in the first three weeks of the coronavirus lockdown. She has information on two other dead women where men have been arrested but not yet charged.

The ages of the victims range from two to 82. The alleged perpetrators where known are mainly husbands but also include a father and a grandson.

But Smith highlighted to HuffPost UK that coronavirus hasn’t created more killers and she is angered at the way many headlines have excused the behaviour of violent men by blaming the virus.

“Coronavirus hasn’t suddenly created more killers.” she said. “It’s violent men who are to blame, not the virus.

“It is the conditions around us that have changed due to coronavirus and this has resulted in more triggers to men’s violence – although I prefer to call them excuses.”

Smith says she has been frustrated by what she calls the “lazy reporting” of some of the cases where it has been suggested the deaths of the women were caused by the men being “pushed to violence” as a result of coronavirus pressures.

She said: “One man who had killed his partner claimed he had killed her as she told him to leave the house as he had symptoms of coronavirus.

“Another report about a man’s fatal violence told how he had been pushed to kill as he had financial concerns and was worried about his business drying up.

“It is ridiculous to blame these killings on coronavirus by making out it is the virus at fault when it is actually the men.

“Men’s controlling behaviour is the reason behind these killings. It is their domineering behaviour, their sense of entitlement and their belief that they need to be controlling and that women are there to serve them which is to blame.

“We need to look at all the reasons why men feel they have the right to treat women like this.

“There has been a sharp rise in deaths, but not an increase in the number of abusive men. For an unhealthy relationship to become an abusive one takes an abusive person.”

Smith says that while the lockdown might restrict women’s ability to escape or access to support, and might even curtail measures some men take to keep their violence under control, it doesn’t make a killer out of a man who has never been controlling, abusive or violent to the woman he is in a relationship with.

She says that while the number of women killed by men in the three weeks since lockdown is the highest it has been for at least 10 years compared to a hypothetical 21 days over the last decade, it is important to be cautious about the increase as there are always times when numbers are higher or lower.

“Although it is early days, this increase is extremely worrying.” she told HuffPost UK. “It shows the level of abuse that women are living with from men, the severity of that abuse and that we urgently need to end this violence.

“However, it is a worry to me whether there is a lockdown or not. I am alarmed at the women who have been killed during the first three weeks of the coronavirus lockdown – but I am equally worried about the seven women who would have been killed on an average week.

“These deaths are not normal or acceptable at any time.”

Smith says that while her work centres around counting dead women, she would never say it is only the dead women that count and is also deeply concerned about the women and children who will live through the coronavirus lockdown with an abuser and survive.

Women and girls are at an increased risk of all forms of abuse-based violence as they are trapped with their perpetrators and there is less scrutiny.” Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of Agenda

Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of Agenda, an alliance for women and girls at risk, says that while there has already been a spike in women seeking help and support from domestic abuse, she anticipates a bigger rise when lockdown measures end.

“Women and girls are at an increased risk of all forms of abuse-based violence as they are trapped with their perpetrators and there is less scrutiny,” she told HuffPost UK.

“The lockdown means people are spending more time together and where a perpetrator might have been going out to work or socialising, there will be more exposure and opportunities for abuse.

“The increasing pressures of the situation can see a relationship that was unhappy and unhealthy escalate into violence.

“There will also be increased opportunities for perpetrators to exert control whether that’s about leaving the house, financial control or enforcing certain behaviours.”

She added: “It’s important to point out that coronavirus and lockdown don’t cause abuse. Don’t blame the virus as perpetrators are responsible for their behaviour.”

Olchawski said the lockdown will be making it more difficult for women to seek help, particularly as many support organisations are under incredible pressure.

“It is difficult to even make a phone call when you are trapped in the same house as your abuser.

“The most disadvantaged women might not have access to a mobile phone or the internet and may only have been able to access face-to-face services which they can’t do at the moment.

“Support organisations are also under a lot of pressure. They were already in a very difficult funding environment and are now seeing falls in their income, an increase in demand and a necessity to change their working conditions.

“Although it is a very difficult time and the government and services are under great pressure, we need to prepare for plans after lockdown.

“Although we have already seen a spike in reporting, I think we will see a bigger one when women are eventually able to get away from their perpetrators and reach out to people they trust.

“At the moment, it is all happening behind closed doors but when these women have the freedom to access help and escape after lockdown, we need to make sure they are not abandoned.”

The victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird, says the increased death figures for women who have been killed by men are very troubling.

“People who are already trapped in coercively controlled relationships will be locked up together 24 hours a day and things are more likely to escalate into violence,” she said to HuffPost UK.

“The growing levels of tension and intensity might even see those with fraying relationships which are unhappy but not actually abusive possibly escalate into abuse due to proximity and monotony.”

She added: “No one is saying that coronavirus lockdown isn’t essential, because it is.

“However, all countries have seen an increase in domestic abuse during lockdown so we need to make sure there are strategies to protect people and we have to give people maximum opportunities to escape from this abuse.”

I think there should be emergency provision in supermarkets and pharmacies."Dame Vera Baird, victims’ commissioner for England and Wales

Dame Vera welcomed the fact that home secretary Priti Patel made it clear that those suffering domestic abuse should seek help and that services are open and it is a lawful reason to leave the house to escape an abusive relationship.

However, she has called for more places where women can seek emergency help.

“I think there should be emergency provision in supermarkets and pharmacies as a controlled person might still get sent out to do the shopping,” she said.

“Supermarket staff could be given basic training about what to do if someone came to them and either said they were in an abusive relationship or used a code word to highlight they need help.”

Helen Victoria, who lives in Birmingham, told HuffPost UK that she was involved in a highly abusive and controlling relationship between the ages of 15 and 23 and can understand what it must be like to be trapped in a home with an abusive partner.

The 31-year-old said for the first few years of the relationship, everything was fine. But life changed after they bought a house and moved in together when she was 19.

She described how it was the incidents of manipulation and control which were far worse than the huge rows.

I was controlled and manipulated and made to feel like I was crazy. I felt trapped in that house and as if I could not reach out to anyone.”Helen Victoria, Living Liberte

“It would start off with lots of questions and playing on my insecurities. If I was going out with friends, he would ask why I didn’t want to stay at home with him.

“I was training to be a dancer and he would question why I wanted to wear leotards and would say I was selfish and things like: ‘I thought you were a nice girl.’

“Once you put that element of doubt in someone’s mind, it is easier to further manipulate them.

“He knew me very well by that point and recognised the things that made me feel insecure such as my weight. If I put a spoonful of mayonnaise on my plate, he would raise an eyebrow and I would feel terrible.

“It took me a long time to be able to eat properly and not question myself even after the relationship ended.

“It is the little things that devalue you that stay with you and are worse than the big blow up rows.”

Helen said it is the manipulating and confusion that is the hardest thing to deal with in an abusive relationship and it takes a long time to recognise it is conditioning of your psyche and not love.

“He had financial control over me and wanted to know exactly what I was spending my money on. If I did something like move his phone from the table, he would give me Chinese burns.

“I was controlled and manipulated and made to feel like I was crazy. I felt trapped in that house and as if I could not reach out to anyone.”

Helen says she used to constantly search on the internet and type in the words: “Is it normal when he …?” She even searched for refuges and support groups but found they were aimed at people older than her.

Since leaving the abusive relationship, Helen had a lot of therapy and is now in a healthy relationship.

She now runs a social enterprise called Living Liberte in Birmingham that aims to prevent future domestic abuse by providing relationship education to young people.

Helen told HuffPost UK she has seen a rise of almost double in new enquiries for mentoring she offers through her social enterprise since lockdown began and has also been contacted by young women who are trapped in lockdown with abusers.

She said: “It is very common for victims to feel like it is all their fault and also to feel like they don’t want to lose someone they think they love.

“During the coronavirus situation, we need to be aware of people who are affected by abusive relationships.

“When there are so many people dying of the virus, some women may feel they can’t ask for help. This can leave people in very dangerous situations.

“I only survived my abusive relationship as I had outlets and went out dancing and was able to get out of the house.

“The idea of being on lockdown in the same house with nowhere to go would have been horrendous and my situation would have escalated very quickly.”

Home secretary Priti Patel launched a public awareness campaign to ensure those at risk of domestic abuse during the coronavirus lockdown know where to turn for help.

She also revealed talks were ongoing to provide charities with an additional £2m to bolster helplines and online support.

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Refuge has reported a 25% increase in calls since lockdown began.

On the first Saturday following lockdown alone, the helpline saw a 65% increase in calls compared with the same day the previous week.

Many domestic abuse charities have also reported a surge in traffic to websites and online services since the lockdown conditions were imposed.

If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police. If you are not in immediate danger, you can contact:

The Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership by Women’s Aid and Refuge): 0808 2000 247
In Scotland, contact Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline: 0800 027 1234
In Northern Ireland, contact the 24 hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 802 1414
In Wales, contact the 24 hour Life Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428
Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327
Respect helpline (for anyone worried about their own behaviour): 0808 802 4040

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/violent-men-are-to-blame-not-th...

Are you a victim of violence at home? Here’s how to get help amid COVID-19
By Wendy GillisStaff Reporter
Alyshah HashamCourts Reporter
The Star, April 22, 2020

Stay-home orders are meant to keep Canadians healthy amid the COVID-19 pandemic — but home is not a safe place for victims of intimate partner or family violence.

Are you a victim of violence home, or are you worried for someone you know? Here are some resources for those seeking help for themselves or others in danger:

If you are in immediate danger, call 911

Seek help if you are in danger. Police are still responding to domestic violence calls, and police stations are still open for walk-ins for domestic violence victims.

Contact your local shelter or support provider

ShelterSafe.ca has a Canada-wide directory of contact information for your local services, as does EndingViolenceCanada.org and Canadianwomen.org.

Meanwhile, crisis lines are also open throughout the pandemic. And because front-line workers know it can be difficult to speak out loud with someone who is be living with their abusers, many are now communicating by text, through messaging apps or online.

Pamela Cross, the legal director of Oshawa-based Luke’s Place, said conversations with an abused person begin with safety planning, including finding out if the person has privacy from her abuser and if the device she is using — whether a laptop or phone — is private and password-protected.

A worker will explain how to delete messages, records of phone calls and browser histories. The conversation might happen by phone, by Zoom or by chat — whatever and whenever works best for her.

Even if an abused person doesn’t plan to stay at a shelter, staff can provide services or help make an emergency escape plan catered to specific needs, as well as a safety plan.

Luke’s Place also publishes a series of safety planning tips on its website.

You can also find resources for victims of elder abuse published on canada.ca, and for child abuse at kidshelpphone.ca and crisistextline.ca

Let someone know you’re in trouble using a special hand signal

If you don’t have a way to call, text or message someone safely, you can still try to communicate that you need help by using a special hand signal the Canadian Women’s Foundation recommends using on a video chat.

To make the signal, point your palm to the camera with the thumb tucked, then close your fingers over your thumb.

Access free legal support

Free legal advice with no financial eligibility requirement is available through Legal Aid Ontario at 1-800-668-8258 and through a new emergency family law referral line at 1-800-668-8258.

The family law referral line offers half-an-hour of advice and referrals to other services.

Luke’s Place also offers a virtual legal clinic for women experiencing intimate-partner violence — an expansion of a service already offered to women in rural areas. This can be accessed by contacting the local women’s shelter at ShelterSafe.ca.

Family court support workers continue to offer help to domestic violence victims going through the family court process. More information about that can be found through the Victim Support Line toll-free at 1-888-579-2888, or 416-314-2447, and online at the website of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

How to help others

Friends, neighbours and family members play a critical role in supporting victims at all times, but especially during a pandemic.

If someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

Don’t hesitate. Call the authorities if you believe someone is in imminent danger. Police are responding to domestic and family violence calls as usual.

Check in on a victim carefully

Keep in regular contact with someone experiencing abuse and, where possible, visit in a way that lets you keep your distance or set up a video call. It’s important to first make sure that the person can communicate safely through whatever channel you’re using, whether by email, text or phone.

One way is to find this out is call and ask “yes” or “no” questions, which can avoid arousing the suspicion of anyone nearby. Questions could include: “Would you like me to call 911?” or “Would it help if I called a shelter for you?”

The Canadian Women’s Foundation also recommends asking general questions when communicating by text, email or messaging apps — the kind that aren’t unusual to be posing in the middle of a pandemic, and won’t cause alarm if an abuser sees them. These include: “How can I help you out?” or “Get in touch with me when you can.”

Call a local shelter or crisis line on a victim’s behalf — or offer up a space to stay

Kaitlin Geiger-Bardswich, a manager with Women’s Shelters Canada, said family and friends can get advice for a specific situation even if the victim can’t call herself.

“We don’t want to put too much information out there because then abusers will know what to look for,” Geiger-Bardswich said. “So at least if we’re encouraging people to call the shelter, the shelter can then help the family member or neighbour or friend safety-plan.”

If you have a separate living space where a relative, friend or neighbour could stay while maintaining physical distance, offer it, said Sly Castaldi, executive director of Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis.

“I know it’s really challenging now, but if it’s a separate area you’re not using, offering this is important,” Castaldi said.

If you’re able, donate money to programs supporting women and girls

Despite provincial and federal government funding to support women’s shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrea Gunraj, vice-president of public engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, said these non-profit organizations will require far more financial support.

This is especially true as the pandemic stretches on and typical fundraising efforts continue to be cancelled, she said.

“I think we need to remember that we have to give support to women and girls in particular — don’t expect that when you give money to general things that it necessarily filters to the needs of women,” Gunraj said. “I would really encourage them to give towards gender-specific services.”

If you’re able to donate, research violence against women charities in your area. The Canadian Women’s Foundation has also launched a COVID-19 fund to help support women and girls called Tireless Together.

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/04/22/are-you-a-victim-of-...

The Nova Scotia shootings began with an act of domestic abuse — and there were red flags that came before
By Douglas Quan, Vancouver Bureau
Steve McKinley,Halifax Bureau
The Star, April 23, 2020

The woman who helped set police on the path to finding the gunman behind Nova Scotia’s mass shooting had seen his explosive violence first-hand.

She was there as it ignited this past weekend, the Star has learned.

On Saturday night, the man who would carry out the worst mass shooting in Canadian history had been with his longtime girlfriend when they got into an argument, according to a source with knowledge of the police investigation.

The fight escalated. He assaulted the woman and bound her at one of his properties in the rural farming community of Portapique, N.S.

At some point, she was able to flee into a wooded area. Details of the domestic attack were first reported by Global News on Thursday and confirmed by the Star.

Police would arrive to the scene that night to find neighbours dead, fires burning, and spend the entire rest of the night searching the area for the killer without success.

But then, a break. On Sunday morning, between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., the woman — whom police this week described as a “key witness” — gave officers a vital piece of information: Gabriel Wortman had an RCMP uniform and a replica cruiser, and she had a photo of it. Police would later tweet out a picture of Wortman’s mock police vehicle in a warning to the public.

By then Wortman was hours into a shooting rampage that would leave 22 dead across 16 crime scenes stretching nearly 100 kilometres. Some victims were known to Wortman, others were not, police have said.

Among his eventual victims was RCMP veteran Const. Heidi Stevenson, as well as a 17-year-old.

Police finally located Wortman late Sunday morning at a gas station in Enfield, where he was shot and killed.

RCMP have promised to soon release a detailed timeline of the tragic events, but as the police investigation has continued, there have been scant details explaining what happened to the public.

The case has triggered a number of questions about the RCMP’s actions, including why they did not activate the province’s public emergency alert system.

Amanda Dale, a member of the advisory panel for the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, called some of the new details emerging out of the investigation “terrifyingly affirming of a pattern that we’ve seen in Canada.”

The observatory is an online information centre that aims to promote research and knowledge “to prevent femicide and other forms of gender-based killings in Canada.”

“In this case, we’re seeing at least the initial signs that it’s linked with misogyny,” Dale said.

She noted the fact that investigators believe the partner of the shooter was bound was “a huge red flag.”

“It’s highly correlated with domestic homicide.”

Earlier this week, members of a family who live near the denture clinic Wortman operated for years told the Star that he and his longtime girlfriend had seemed “perfect for one another” and enjoyed trips to sunny destinations.

But there were other episodes that gave some acquaintances cause for concern.

John Hudson and his wife had been friends with Gabriel Wortman for more than 15 years.

About 10 years ago, their group of friends used to have bonfire parties down on Portapique Beach Road. It was during those parties, Hudson said, that some concerns began to emerge about Wortman’s behaviour.

“Back in those days, he was making a few threats here and there every once and a while but nothing serious and I just took it as, ‘Well Gabe, he’s just had too much to drink,’ ” Hudson said.

On one of those nights, at one of those parties, Hudson recalled, Wortman was having a fight with his girlfriend.

She wanted to leave, but Wortman had taken the back wheels off her car and thrown them in a ditch.

Hudson and another man took her to Wortman’s house, where she asked to come in and get her belongings.

“He said, ‘You’re not coming in here.’ And she said, ‘I just want my stuff.’ He said, ‘No.’ And he went back in the house.”

Wortman’s girlfriend asked Hudson to go into Wortman’s house to pick up her things.

Hudson obliged, and Wortman came back to the door.

“He said, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘(She) just wants me to come in and get her stuff so that way she doesn’t have to come in.’ He says, ‘I don’t want anybody at my house.’ And I said, ‘It’ll only take me a second, Gabe.’ And he said, ‘Nobody’s coming in my house. And I want you to know, I’ve got some guns in this house.’ ”

Hudson and his friend took the woman back to the bonfire, where the woman called some friends from Dartmouth, who drove the hour and a half to Portapique to pick her up at 1 a.m.

He said Wortman and the woman reconciled after that and remained together.

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/04/23/the-nova-scotia-shoo...

Are you a victim of violence at home? Here’s how to get help amid COVID-19
By Wendy Gillis, Staff Reporter
Alyshah Hasham, Courts Reporter
The Star, April 22, 2020

Stay-home orders are meant to keep Canadians healthy amid the COVID-19 pandemic — but home is not a safe place for victims of intimate partner or family violence.

Are you a victim of violence at home, or are you worried for someone you know? Here are some resources for those seeking help for themselves or others in danger:

If you are in immediate danger, call 911

Seek help if you are in danger. Police are still responding to domestic violence calls, and police stations are still open for walk-ins for domestic violence victims.

Contact your local shelter or support provider

ShelterSafe.ca has a Canada-wide directory of contact information for your local services, as does EndingViolenceCanada.org and Canadianwomen.org.

Meanwhile, crisis lines are also open throughout the pandemic. And because front-line workers know it can be difficult to speak out loud with someone who is be living with their abusers, many are now communicating by text, through messaging apps or online.

Pamela Cross, the legal director of Oshawa-based Luke’s Place, said conversations with an abused person begin with safety planning, including finding out if the person has privacy from her abuser and if the device she is using — whether a laptop or phone — is private and password-protected.

A worker will explain how to delete messages, records of phone calls and browser histories. The conversation might happen by phone, by Zoom or by chat — whatever and whenever works best for her.

Even if an abused person doesn’t plan to stay at a shelter, staff can provide services or help make an emergency escape plan catered to specific needs, as well as a safety plan.

Luke’s Place also publishes a series of safety planning tips on its website.

You can also find resources for victims of elder abuse published on canada.ca, and for child abuse at kidshelpphone.ca and crisistextline.ca

Let someone know you’re in trouble using a special hand signal

If you don’t have a way to call, text or message someone safely, you can still try to communicate that you need help by using a special hand signal the Canadian Women’s Foundation recommends using on a video chat.

To make the signal, point your palm to the camera with the thumb tucked, then close your fingers over your thumb.

Access free legal support

Free legal advice with no financial eligibility requirement is available through Legal Aid Ontario at 1-800-668-8258 and through a new emergency family law referral line at 1-800-668-8258.

The family law referral line offers half-an-hour of advice and referrals to other services.

Luke’s Place also offers a virtual legal clinic for women experiencing intimate-partner violence — an expansion of a service already offered to women in rural areas. This can be accessed by contacting the local women’s shelter at ShelterSafe.ca.

Family court support workers continue to offer help to domestic violence victims going through the family court process. More information about that can be found through the Victim Support Line toll-free at 1-888-579-2888, or 416-314-2447, and online at the website of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

How to help others

Friends, neighbours and family members play a critical role in supporting victims at all times, but especially during a pandemic.

If someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

Don’t hesitate. Call the authorities if you believe someone is in imminent danger. Police are responding to domestic and family violence calls as usual.

Check in on a victim carefully

Keep in regular contact with someone experiencing abuse and, where possible, visit in a way that lets you keep your distance or set up a video call. It’s important to first make sure that the person can communicate safely through whatever channel you’re using, whether by email, text or phone.

One way is to find this out is call and ask “yes” or “no” questions, which can avoid arousing the suspicion of anyone nearby. Questions could include: “Would you like me to call 911?” or “Would it help if I called a shelter for you?”

The Canadian Women’s Foundation also recommends asking general questions when communicating by text, email or messaging apps — the kind that aren’t unusual to be posing in the middle of a pandemic, and won’t cause alarm if an abuser sees them. These include: “How can I help you out?” or “Get in touch with me when you can.”

Call a local shelter or crisis line on a victim’s behalf — or offer up a space to stay

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/04/22/are-you-a-victim-of-...

Domestic abuse against Palestinian women soars

Since start of coronavirus lockdown, at least five women have been killed at the hands of their abusers, activists say.
by Farah Najjar, Al Jazeera, 20 Apr 2020

Eleven women have been killed as a result of domestic violence across Palestine since the beginning of this year, activists say [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

Banging pots and pans and waving homemade banners, scores of Palestinians have expressed their solidarity with women enduring various forms of domestic violence during a lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The initiative on Monday, which saw both women and men stand at their windows and balconies across the occupied Palestinian territories and historic Palestine, was aimed at shedding light on the plight of women who are locked down with their abusers.
More:

Domestic abuse cases soar in Lebanon amid coronavirus lockdown

Coronavirus: Which countries have confirmed cases?

Locked down with abusers: India sees surge in domestic violence

According to a tally combined by Tal'at, an independent political feminist movement that organised the campaign, 11 Palestinian women have been killed as a result of domestic violence so far this year, with five of the fatalities occurring since the implementation of the lockdown in early March. Of these five, four succumbed to gun wounds.

Tal'at activist Soheir Asaad said that while for many "quarantine" suggests being safe at home, for others it is "hell".

"It means living with someone who could end your life," Assad told Al Jazeera from Haifa, describing the reality faced by some women during the lockdown.

Assiwar, a women's support NGO, says the number of calls it has received in recent weeks has risen by 30 percent, notwithstanding a plethora of messages landing on its social media platforms. Other groups report similar increases, with the Palestinian Working Women Society for Development (PWWSD) saying its counseling hotline received 924 calls between March 22 and April 15.

Lamia Naamneh, head of Assiwar and a women's rights defender for more than 20 years, said most appeals for help involve women who have received death threats.

"Just yesterday, a call led us to a woman who was only able to speak to us via Facebook Messenger chat while at home," Naamneh told Al Jazeera on Monday.

"She said she was threatened, beaten, and we had to send the police to get her transferred to a safe house," she said.

Naamneh added there has also been a surge in cases of both sexual violence and domestic abuse against children following the implementation of the lockdown measures.

At the same time, there are major concerns that many cases of domestic violence go unreported.

"Fear is the biggest barrier faced by abused women … Fear of being ostracised, excluded, abandoned, of not being a good mother or daughter," said Amany Khalifa, a social worker who also participated in Monday's campaign.

The situation becomes even more difficult when authorities do not work to protect women, she told Al Jazeera from occupied East Jerusalem.

"We cannot ask an inherently violent institution to change the reality of Palestinian women."

It is common for cases to be under-reported in certain areas of the West Bank, such as in Area C - which is under full Israeli military control. This is because it is difficult for the police to reach homes in these areas, according to PWWSD coordinator Futna Khalifa, who notes there are checkpoints hindering the movement of Palestinians.

"Many Palestinian families live in small apartment complexes, and the small spaces can increase the chances of friction and conflict between a husband and wife," Khalifa said.

"This is especially true for those women who already faced abuse prior to the lockdown. What may have been psychological abuse, may have turned into a physical form of abuse during this time."
'Disrupt public sphere'

While many women across the world share similar realities, abuse is especially complex and systematic for Palestinian women, Tal'at's Asaad said. Palestinian women live in "fragmentation" and endure the various consequences of the Israeli occupation, she added.

"This is a unique reality that Palestinian women in particular live under," Assad noted.

Tal'at, which translates to "rising up", emerged in September last year following the murder of 21-year-old Israa Gharib in the occupied West Bank. It seeks to create a discourse where violence against Palestinian women is talked about within the context of "Palestinian political and national liberation".

"We understand violence as social, economic and political injustice against women - not only as domestic violence," Assad said. "These aspects have affected the way we experience violence and our ability to resist it and even talk about it."

Alongside the strict measures in place due to the pandemic, the situation is compounded by the pressures of Israeli occupation, economic subjugation and political apathy, activists say.

"This is why we wanted to create a space for Palestinian women to be part of our movement," Assad said of Monday's initiative. "If we can't be on the street … we are all in our homes and we will not be silenced".

Khalifa agreed. "It's very important for a voice to appear in the public sphere, to disrupt it, because life cannot continue while there is this huge presence of violence against our women."

She added: "We have to realise that colonial violence and patriarchal violence are connected."
'Home not a safe space'

There are only two safe houses designated for Palestinian women in Israel, which results in a constant lack of space to accommodate newcomers.

What further complicates the situation these days is that NGOs such Assiwar have first to ensure that the new arrivals are not carriers of the coronavirus. Often, these women are required to reside in hotels for 14 days at their own expense, a luxury most cannot afford.

"We're fortunate that friends who support our work have agreed on several occasions to take these women in," Naamneh said, adding that some women "end up on the streets" after not being admitted to safe houses.

Meanwhile, many Palestinians who work in the Israeli service sector have lost their jobs in the past few weeks, which has worsened an already dire economic situation.

While being confined to their homes, many tend to take out their frustration on vulnerable women who are left without refuge during the lockdown, Khalifa said.

"Violence is often practiced when the abuser is frustrated, which is manifested in the form of abuse," she said. "This is why homes are not a safe space for many women."

Making things worse is the fact that the Israeli police do not pay attention to Palestinian communities, Naamneh said.

"When the occupation doesn't prioritise our safety, it is easy to kill when you're in an unsafe environment."

SOURCE: Al Jazeera News
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/domestic-abuse-palestinian-w...

Male violence: “A pandemic in its own right”

April 26, 2020 By Suzanne Rent, Halifax Examiner

Not long after Sunday’s mass killings, signs started emerging that the tragedy may have started with an act of domestic violence. Those who knew the killer said he was jealous and had a complicated relationship with his girlfriend.

On Friday, RCMP confirmed that a woman the killer had been in a relationship with was either the first or among the first victims. She survived and managed to flee into the woods where she stayed for the night.

On Friday, the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia (THANS), which represents 10 transition houses and domestic violence organizations across the province, shared a statement about the mass killings, saying it was “saddened but in no way shocked” about the killings, calling the murders “an extreme and actualized version of the male rage and aggression targeting those who are supposed to be the closest to them.”

We must not dilute this problem by speaking of a single act of rage but rather recognize that male violence is part of a bigger social problem of entitlement and toxic masculinity. We need to recognize the underlying attitudes and beliefs that tolerate and normalize smaller acts of violence against women and perpetuate an environment that leads to deadly outcomes.

We must not dismiss the root causes of this horrific problem if we wish to prevent future tragedies like this. The male violence inflicted upon women and their children every day is a pandemic in its own right. The violence is not exclusive to the woman: it can include threats against children, the woman’s extended family, friends, neighbours, pets and often last for years, even after the relationship has ended. Violence against women takes place in quiet rural communities as well as large cities. It does not respect age, wealth or occupation.

Also Friday, Feminists Fighting Femicide sent out a letter signed by Pam Rubin, Lucille Harper, Tara Reddick, Linda MacDonald, Jeanne Sarson, Bernadette MacDonald, and Johannah May Black, demanding clarity from the RCMP on the femicide elements of this crime and demanding an inquiry with a feminist analysis.

While not all of the victims in this mass shooting were women, all of the victims were victims of misogynist violence. We want to make it clear that misogyny — the hatred of women — affects all of us. This mass shooting, and many mass killings witnessed throughout Canada’s history are connected to white men’s privilege, showing us that this hatred brings severe harm to many. This hatred of women is ravaging our communities, our families, and our bodies. We want it to end. The first and most important step to fighting back against this hatred is to recognize it as femicide. To always speak out against femicide wherever it lurks in our society, in all our rural and larger communities. We must further recognize that femicide disproportionately impacts Indigenous and Black women, and other marginalized and vulnerable groups. We must have the courage to name misogyny and femicide and speak out against it.

For women’s organizations across the country, that this murder rampage started with domestic violence comes as no surprise. In Canada, every six days a woman is killed by her intimate partner. Other mass murders like the one that started in Portapique have started with domestic violence and/or misogyny. There was the killing of 14 women at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989. In 2014 in Edmonton, a shooter killed eight people, starting with his wife and children. The shooter had a criminal record dating back to 1987, including arrests for domestic assault. In 2019, a man used a van to kill 10 people on streets in Toronto. Most of the victims were women.

Andrea Gunraj is the vice-president, public engagement with the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Photo: Canadian Women’s Foundation

Andrea Gunraj, vice-president, public engagement with the Canadian Women’s Foundation, says domestic violence still is seen as a private issue. But she says we all have to start paying attention to these crimes and the motives behind them, including sexist attitudes toward women. “Men who are privately dangerous to women are publicly dangerous to everyone,” Gunraj says. (The foundation has a fact sheet on domestic violence here.)

Gunraj says we all can do our part to help women leave situations of domestic violence. She says the expectation is often that women in violent situations will reach out for help but it’s not always possible or safe for them to do so. Women in abusive situations are emotionally manipulated into not reaching out.

Everyone needs the right tools to help women in violent homes. Gunraj says most people simply don’t know how to help. “When we see a woman being abused, we’re scared to intervene,” she says. “The flags were there. There were signs and hints, but there was no safe way to intervene. It’s so important for us to understand there’s no substitute for a safe person, a proactive person.”

Gunraj says that means people should actively and safely reach out to women they suspect who are being abused and believe them when they say they are experiencing violence from an intimate partner. People should make themselves aware, find local resources for women, not just 911.

There are numerous programs, including THANS and those programs designed to help women who are now at home more often because of social isolation measures. The Canadian Women’s Foundation has a program called Signal for Help, a simple one-handed sign women can use in a video chat, which many are doing under social isolations measures, to ask someone for help.

There’s also Neighbours, Friends & Family, an Ontario-based program that trains people how to recognize the signs of abuse and be a support for women who want to leave abusive men.

One of the problems is that while there are many projects dedicated to addressing gender-based violence and helping women leave abusive partners, they are often underfunded. Gunraj says the foundation is calling for a national policy on gender-based violence that would start at the top levels of government with policies, practices, and funding, and filter down into municipalities and eventually into communities where the abuse begins. “There’s a role for everyone to play, so this is a huge solution,” Gunraj says.

Looking at domestic violence also means addressing the issue of male violence and male entitlement and that plays out in more areas than in the home or in mass shootings. Male violence and male entitlement are at the root of inequality between men and women and the attitudes that men are better than women. We see it through sexual violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, the gender-pay gap and the idea that women should take jobs that don’t pay well, overall disrespect for women, and much more. “It goes on and on and through and through our society,” Gunraj says.

Dealing with male violence and male entitlement means giving men healthy outlets to express anger and emotions. “If we do that, the space to be violent to someone and the capacity for silence disappears,” Gunraj says.

Domestic violence is significant problem in Nova Scotia. According to a fact sheet from the Nova Scotia Domestic Violence Resource Centre, 37 women were murdered by their intimate partner between 1999 and 2018. As of December 2019, women continue to be the predominant victims of domestic violence in Nova Scotia at 78% compared to 22% of the victims being male. In 2018, the rate of police-reported incidents of domestic violence against females was more than three times higher than the rate of police-reported instances of domestic violence against males. That same year, the rate of police-reported domestic violence against females in the province increased by 7.8% compared to 2016. That rate is higher than the 4.4% rate increase for Canada.

Nova Scotia has its own domestic violence prevention plan with the Standing Together to Prevent Domestic Violence with the Advisory Council of the Status of Women (Disclosure: I am the coordinator of the Not Without Us project, one of the projects funded under this plan).

Women of colour, Indigenous women, immigrant women, disabled women, and women in the LGBTQ community are at higher risk for gender-based violence. Domestic abuse is compounded by racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and religious persecution. Indigenous women are killed at a rate six times higher than non-Indigenous women. Disabled women are abused at rates twice that of able-bodied women.

Nancy Ross

Nancy Ross is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, Dalhousie University, and Cary Ryan is a former police officer in British Columbia who now works in the domestic violence community in Halifax, including with the Metro Interagency Committee on Family Violence and the Domestic Violence Court Working Group. They’re working on a project studying carceral feminism and marginalized women and the pro-arrest, pro-prosecution policies of domestic violence in Canada. Both say in the early days after the killing, they suspected there was a domestic violence connection. “That was the red flag,” Ross says when she first heard in the media that the killer’s ex-wife and partner were killed.

“It was a hunch having been rooted in this work so much lately. I am always looking for that,” Ryan adds.

Cary Ryan

Ross and Ryan say the problem of gender-based violence is often not discussed as much as it should be because it exists in silence, so people may not realize how big an issue it is. “It’s an under-reported, under-acknowledged, under-resourced, silenced issue,” Ross says. “It’s a community issue, it’s a social issue, it’s a family issue.”

Ross’ and Ryan’s work focuses on women who are racially, socially and economically marginalized, who are more likely to experience the negative effects of policies like pro-arrest and pro-prosecution.

“The criminal justice system re-victimizes victims,” Ryan says. “There’s a sense victims are left to defend themselves.”

There is good news. Ryan says the domestic violence courts in Nova Scotia are having a positive impact on women and children in the province.

In her work, Ross has profiled the Be the Change, Make a Change project, which examined gender-based violence in Lunenburg; that project was a three-year study by the Second Story Women’s Centre and funded by Status of Women. That project not only looked at ways to ways to create a coordinated response to violence against women and girls, but it also recognized that the cultural and social roots that sustain violence need to be addressed. Everyone was included — from survivors of domestic violence, healthcare providers, local and provincial governments, schools, police and justice officials, and boys and men themselves.

Ross says we all need to look at the social conditions and the culture in which people are raised and how we are building peaceful relationships in our society.

“This calls for a reflection on what kind of culture we’ve created and what do we do to support boys and men in ways that are non-violent,” Ross says. “Most of the messaging we get is violent.”

“We have an opportunity in this crisis to reexamine what makes Nova Scotia great. It’s going to be the cause of a lot of reflection and it will be an opportunity to promote reflection.”

Resources:
Transition House Association of Nova Scotia (THANS)
Bryony House
Alice Housing
Adsum for Women and Children
Women’s Shelters Canada
Nova Scotia Domestic Violence Resource Centre
Canadian Women’s Foundation
Native Women’s Association of Canada
The Canadian Council for Refugees
Egale
Stop Abuse for Everyone
DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada
Neighbours, Friends, and Family
The White Ribbon Campaign

https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/featured/male-violence-a-pandemic-in...

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