COVID-19 Op-ed

When a House is no Longer Home: Shedding Light on Domestic Violence amid Covid-19

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 Researcher, Research Center for Population
– Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI)

The emergence of the Covid 19 pandemic has raised many
concerns about human rights issues, ranging from health, education, economic
life to social life. Undeniably, during this pandemic, women suffered more
than men from the exacerbated effects of this public health crisis, because
they bear more responsibility either at home, in society or at work (World
Economic Forum, 2020). For example, in some Southeast Asian countries, such
as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, cases of women and domestic violence
are increasing.According to a quick survey by the Indonesian Legal Aid
Foundation, more than 110 acts of violence against women occurred between
March and June 2020 (LBH Apik, 2020), while domestic violence cases in
Malaysia have increased by about 57 per cent since the outbreak of the Covid
19 pandemic (The Asean Post, 2020) and a similar trend has occurred in
Thailand, where cases of domestic violence have more than doubled if we
compared to year ago, from 85 to 183 cases (Heinrich Boll Stiftung, 2020)In
addition to domestic violence, according to Marques, Moraes, Hasselmann,
Desalandes and Reichenheim (2020), women also experienced a difficult
situation during the pandemic: women were caught up in a heavier workload and
had to bear some disadvantages in caring for their children. This is
exacerbated by restrictions such as ‘the lockdown’ which challenges women’s
activities, such as not being able to enjoy “me time” or self-
escapism.In the pre-pandemic phase, women reportedly had three times more
household chores than men, and this number increased during the pandemic (UN
Women, 2020). When people often have time to stay at home, clashes and
tensions between household members are inevitable, as all activities are now
carried out at home, such as teaching children, cooking more food and
cleaning the house. Sometimes, this makes women more stressful. A study by McLaren,
Wong, Nguyen and Mahamadachchi (2020) mentioned that there is a
“burden” attached to women and that they have enormous barriers to
domestic / reproductive work, economic / productive work and the handling of
public / collective work.From this point of view, we need to analyze why the
burden on women is particularly pronounced and how human rights frameworks
can be useful in solving this problem. Discussions about women in South-East
Asia during a pandemic and their role in the home and in the community are
very complex. In Indonesia, the majority of women worked in vital sectors
such as medical work (70 percent) and small industry (64 percent), and not
only that women demand to do the housework after completing their work in the
formal sector. These activities absorb their energy and pose a greater risk
to their health (VOA Indonesia, 2020). Malaysian women are also on the same
path, spending 64% more time than men with unpaid work before the pandemic,
and now the situation is getting worse (The Star, 2020). While in Thailand,
elder women are becoming the most vulnerable group of the pandemic. They
could no longer afford their lives and because of the lower income of their
children and no longer received support from the family such as health and
financial support (Relief Web, 2020)At this stage, we can convince the
government to regulate an inclusive policy that meets human rights standards:
firstly, to provide health care to women who have specific needs, such as
providing women-friendly spaces for victims of violence and mental illness;
secondly, to transform the injustice of unpaid work into a new economic
policy that will apply to all, so that women are fully respected for their
work; and finally by providing additional financial assistance or even food
for elder women to ensure their food intake in the pandemic.For women, life
in the Covid 19 situation is difficult, because the problems have changed,
not only poverty, the lack of a voice, but also beyond. Apart from the human
rights approach to the issue, what women urgently need now is not a
rhetorical statement. One of the most glaring results of the human rights
approach, for example, is the “rhetoric of equality,” which has
been controversial until now. When addressing the needs of women during a
pandemic, each stakeholder must ensure that they play their role and not just
talk about the norms or values of human rights. Leveraging the knowledge and
skill of women, giving them access to women – friendly places, providing the
opportunities in economic and allowing them in decision-making processes are
much more real than just speak loudly about human rights but no
Boll Stiftung Southeast Asia. July 2020. Thailand’s Silent Pandemic: Domestic
Violence during COVID-19. Retrieved from
Apik. 2020. Kekerasan dalam rumah tangga meningkat selama pandemi. Retrieved
Emanuele Souza, Moraes, Claudia Leite de, Hasselmann, Maria Helena,
Deslandes, Suely Ferreira, & Reichenheim, Michael Eduardo. (2020).
Violence against women, children, and adolescents during the COVID-19
pandemic: overview, contributing factors, and mitigating
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H.J.; Wong, K.R.; Nguyen, K.N.; Mahamadachchi, K.N.D. Covid-19 and Women’s
Triple Burden: Vignettes from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Vietnam and
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Thailand Needs To Do More To Support Older People From The Impact of The
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