Despite confinement measures, rest assured the End FGM European Network secretariat is still active and reachable as usual. The team is now working from home to help #flattenthecurve and ensure we all make a collective effort in stopping the spread of the COVID-19.
Official measures have been taken by governments of the various European states, going from total lockdown to less restrictive measures depending on the local situation. In any case, we can already say that unfortunately the current situation will have an important impact on our activities and the ones of our Members.
In particular, FGM support services are not considered as a medical emergency and a lot of facilities are closed and will remain so for at least several more weeks. Medical staff have rightly been re-allocated to overcome the COVID-19 outbreak or encouraged to avoid any non-urgent medical care for now. As a result, and although our Members are doing the best they can, many FGM survivors and women in general are left without any access to needed medical care.
We know that pandemics such as the one we are experiencing disproportionally affects the most vulnerable in society. In particular, within the context of our work we would like to highlight;
COVID-19 hitting women and girls harder
For many women and children, the home is not a safe place. The UNFPA released its paper on ‘COVID-19: a gender lens’, explaining how women are specifically effected by this pandemic: “In particular, women and girls may be at higher risk of intimate partner violence and other forms of domestic violence due to increased tensions in the household”, in a moment when #stayathome has become the new general rule. “As systems that protect women and girls - including community structures - may weaken or break down, specific measures should be implemented to protect women and girls from the risk of intimate partner violence with the changing dynamics of risk imposed by COVID-19”.
Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality at the European Commission, emphasised:
#COVID19 is putting a disproportionate strain on women in all their diversity. I thus call for a gender-sensitive approach & the protection of rights in the areas of:
- gender-based violence
- economic uncertainty & precariousness
- childcare & social services#UnionOfEquality pic.twitter.com/Fdlz09SB1T
— Helena Dalli (@helenadalli) March 26, 2020
Marceline Naudi, President of GREVIO, reminds us in a statement: “Domestic violence shelters in some areas have already stopped all admissions because they are unsure how to manage the risk of infection. Others are privileging online or telephone support, but this still carries many risks for women who are in close quarters with their abusers. Nor must we forget that the economic consequences of the pandemic, such as loss of job or income, will hit women hard in that they create or exacerbate financial dependency, reducing their ability to leave abusers”.
We therefore call upon governments and institutions to ensure a gender perspective is applied on measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
Asylum seekers at high risk
The COVID-19 outbreak is just making the situation of asylum seekers even worse. Confinement in reception centres leads to severe overcrowding and lack of adequate sanitary facilities, making it impossible to ensure social distancing and hygiene conditions for both residents and employees. This poses a major threat to public health for both asylum seekers and for society as large. In Greece, a large number of refugees and migrants are now being held in prisons and in formal and informal detention centres. Moreover, in other European countries such as Belgium, the suspension of new asylum applications and the temporary closure of national agencies dealing with reception facilities obliges newly arrived asylum seekers to sleep in groups in the streets, which is being punished by the police in charge of avoiding outdoors people’s gatherings.
We therefore call upon governments and institutions to ensure that measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak do not violate international standards and respect the rights, including the right to health, of all asylum seekers.