UNODC Research Highlights Drop in Reporting of Sexual Violence to Police and Justice Services During Lockdowns

  © UNODC/Carla McKirdy

Vienna (Austria), 25 November 2020 – UNODC’s last report on femicide identified the home as the most dangerous place for women, with the majority of female homicide victims killed by intimate partners or family members. This year, lockdown measures were introduced worldwide because of the COVID-19 crisis, which meant that women, just as everyone else, had to stay at home. Researchers, therefore, were expecting the worst. Following the collection and analysis of data available globally, the picture seems to be more diverse.

Based on data from 34 countries, UNODC’s latest research brief, published on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, shows that incidents of rape and sexual assault reported to authorities declined during lockdowns.

This might be explained by women not being able to report violence to criminal justice authorities from home. While authorities might also have had a lower capacity to record such crimes and reduced social interaction during lockdown limited opportunities for these crimes to occur outside the domestic sphere.

Violence takes many manifestations. For instance, while helpline calls increased during lockdown (with sharper increase where measures where stricter), reporting of gender-related killings of women and girls, including killings by intimate partners, shows a mixed trend. Although the number of such killings remained high, in 16 countries where data could be located, no significant changes were visible during lockdown.

It is to be noted that the ultimate abuse, killing, is the most extreme form of violence against women that is usually a culmination of pre-existing domestic violence and multiple other forms of physical and psychological abuse were not reflected within the research project.

The current research brief is based on the limited data currently available on gender-based violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 lockdown. It aims to improve the understanding of the diverse effects of the pandemic on various types of crime affecting women and girls around the globe. It also acknowledges that a comprehensive understanding of the full impact of the pandemic on violence against women and girls will be possible only when survey and more administrative data become available.