As the UN Secretary General António Guterres has repeatedly called out recently, the global lockdowns announced during the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a “horrifying surge” in gender-based violence (GBV), which further deepens existing gender inequalities given the burden of caring for other vulnerable individuals at home — such as young children and/or sick or elderly family members — falls disproportionately on women.
Building on our #ThereIsHelp notification service on mental health and suicide prevention, vaccination, child sexual exploitation and COVID-19, Twitter is launching a dedicated gender-based violence search prompt for hotlines and support in local languages in Asia Pacific. In close partnership with UN Women Asia Pacific (@unwomenasia) who played an advisory role, as well as leading NGOs and government agencies that provide critical emergency care, support and counselling, this service is now available in eight APAC countries including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam. We plan to expand this service in the near future to other countries across the region in the coming weeks and months.
When people in the above mentioned countries search for keywords associated with gender-based violence on Twitter, they will see a notification in their local language directing them to the hotlines of the local organizations where they can seek help, together with a list of NGOs that can provide support they need.
#ShadowPandemic on the rise during COVID-19
According to the latest report by UN Women, 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 globally have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the past 12 months. Emerging data shows that since the outbreak of COVID-19, violence against women and girls, and particularly gender-based violence, has intensified across the globe.
Violence against women and girls across Asia Pacific is pervasive but at the same time widely under reported. Globally, one in three women experience violence at least once in their lifetime. In fact, in many countries in our region, the number is even greater, with as many as 2 out of 3 women in some countries reporting experiences of violence. Less than four in 10 women experiencing such violence actually report these crimes or seek help of any sort. As lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are getting prolonged by countries around the world to contain the spread of COVID-19, women with violent partners increasingly find themselves isolated from the people and resources that can help them. At UN Women, we hear that keeping services open has been hard in many countries. We are pleased to team up with Twitter to help connect women to local services currently available in their countries if they are experiencing violence or abuse.
For example, national data from India indicates that gender-based violence has increased more than two-fold in at least 4 states in the north, while the reported cases from an NGO in Indonesia has recorded a tripling. Similar trends are seen in Singapore and South Korea as well.
With #ThereIsHelp, we hope to reach victims of gender-based violence more easily during this global pandemic that creates a new set of violence and discrimination against women. This initiative by Twitter will provide big support to victims who would otherwise be easily isolated without access to relevant information.
While the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have impacted everyone, there have been adverse effects on women and girls who may be victims of intimate partner violence. With social distancing norms in place, several women are unable to contact their regular support systems. This initiative by Twitter will provide big support to the survivors, who would otherwise be easily isolated without access to relevant information and help.
With domestic violence on the rise in Singapore during the COVID-19 pandemic, AWARE has been urgently searching for ways to make our services known to those outside our existing community. We know that many suffering domestic violence are isolated at home with abusers, without friends or bystanders around them who can step in to help. Therefore, we are very grateful to be included in this fantastic initiative by Twitter. This simple prompt could be a survivor's first step towards escaping abuse and violence. We hope to accompany her throughout the rest of that journey.
The Malaysia Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development's (KPWKM) hotlines have reported a 57% increase in calls while orders aimed at controlling movement are in effect. Right now, there is a great need to put women and girls at the center of all policies in order to ensure that their access to funds, support and most importantly channels to address Domestic Violence, Sexual Harassment and other forms of gender-based violence and inequality. While the pandemic affects everyone, women and girls are more vulnerable to violence and abuse, including economic factors that disproportionately affect women such as period poverty and wage inequality. Together with Twitter, we are ready to address this pressing problem and support all who are suffering from this violence during this challenging time.
As a Legal Aid Institution that focuses on counseling and legal assistance for women who experience injustice, violence, and various forms of discrimination; LBH APIK appreciates Twitter's contribution in overcoming violence and injustice especially for women in Indonesia by launching a notification specifically for gender-based violence. Efforts to face the violence against women and legal equality advocacy are the responsibility of various stakeholders, from individuals, society, regulators, to law enforcers. We hope that the collaboration with Twitter enables us to help and reach wider individuals who need help and assistance.
There is an increase in violence cases against women in Indonesia annually. According to The 2020 annual report (CATAHU) of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), violence against women has increased by 792% over the past 12 years or approximately eightfold increment. This fact proves the importance of educating the public about cases of violence that are still occurring in Indonesia. This collaboration with Twitter is expected to open the access to the public and as reference for stakeholders to prevent and overcome any form of violence against women.
United in the fight against gender-based violence
We recognize that collaboration — public, private and NGO — is a key to combating the complex issue of gender-based violence. We believe this partnership via the #ThereIsHelp notification service will contribute to the efforts of local organizations ensuring people can access and receive support when they need it the most.
Below are our trusted national NGO partners in this effort as well as the key Government agencies providing services via the referrals of our #ThereIsHelp service.
India: Ministry of Women and Child Development (@MinistryWCD), a government agency, is a central body for formulation and administration of the rules and regulations and laws relating to women and child development in India. National Commission for Women (@NCWIndia) is a national government organization of India with the mandate of protecting and promoting the interests of women, especially providing hotlines for gender-based violence in the country.
Indonesia: LBH APIK Jakarta (@LBHAPIK) is a non-profit organization for women’s legal aid institute which provides free hotlines and legal assistance for women and children. Komnas Perempuan (@KomnasPerempuan) is the National Commission on the Elimination of Violence against Women which is an independent national institution working to protect women’s rights, including preventing and reducing violence against women in Indonesia.
Malaysia: Women's Aid Org (@womensaidorg) is a Malaysian NGO that provides free shelter, counselling, and crisis support to women and children who experience abuse. All Women’s Action Society (@AWAMMalaysia) is a feminist non-profit organization based in Malaysia working on both local and national level to address gender-based violence (GBV) such as rape, sexual harassment and workplace discrimination while envisioning and working towards substantive equality, recognizing the unique diversity, intersectionality, play of power, privilege and other environmental factors.
Philippines: The Philippine Commission on Women (@PCWgovph) is the primary policy-making and coordinating government agency on women and gender equality concerns in the country, especially on Violence Against Women Hotlines. Women’s Care Center (WCC), a non-profit organization, provides hotlines and a supportive environment in which women who have survived violence can interact with other survivors through group counselling, education programs, recreation activities, and skills training.
Thailand: Pavena Foundation for Children and Women is an non-profit organization with the primary purpose of helping to alleviate the suffering of children and women who were raped or forced into prostitution domestically, in Thailand and abroad. Friends of Women Foundation, a non-profit organization, provides information, support, referral and emergency financial assistance to women who have been victims of exploitation, violence and trafficking. Social Assistance Center is a 24-hour service operated by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to receive reports related to social problems, including gender-based violence, human trafficking, child abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Singapore: The Ministry of Family and Social Development (@MSFcares) launched the National Care Hotline in April 2020 to provide 24/7 psychological first aid and emotional support to those who need it during the crisis. Alongside this, the Association of Women for Action and Research / AWARE (@awarenews), a Singapore founded and based gender equality advocacy group, runs a specialised hotline catered for women. The AWARE Women’s Helpline provides assistance to callers with various concerns offering empathy, support, information and encouragement.
South Korea: The Women’s Human Rights Institute of Korea (@whrik2009) is the nation’s central agency supporting victims of online sex abuse, operating the Women’s Digital Safety Center since April 2018 under the auscipieces of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. While the Institute strives to eradicate all forms of violence against women, the Center specializes in digital sex abuse and provides victims with counseling sessions and support for reporting. Korea Women’s Hotline (@kwhotline, KWHL) is an NGO that supports victims of all forms of violence against women including domestic violence, dating abuse and sexual harrassment. A nationally recognized organization with 25 branches throughout Korea, the KWHL provides shelters for survivors of sexual violence and has operated the nation’s oldest women’s hotline since 1987.
Vietnam: Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender - Family - Women and Adolescent (CSAGA) is a non-governmental, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the rights of women and children who are vulnerable to violence and discrimination in Vietnam for the past two decades. CSAGA provides hotlines for free consultation on gender violence, domestic giolence and LGBTQ in Vietnam.
Twitter is pleased to take this unique step and launch the product feature dedicated to addressing gender-based violence. We are honored to collaborate with our critical partners across the region in this regard and are deeply grateful for their collaboration and support. We look forward to supporting their efforts to support and reach their communities during COVID-19 and beyond.