Gender inequalities are aggravated by health emergencies especially with reference to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Stress, disruption in social and protective networks, economic pressures and decreased access to services can compound the risk of violence for women and girls. Data are still scanty but reports from China, UK, Italy and other countries suggest an increase in domestic violence since the COVID-19 outbreak.
The impact of response measures to COVID-19 is not equally spread out as it has the tendency to disproportionately affect victims and survivors of SGBV. Reporting rates for SGBV cases have always lingered on the lower side in Pakistan and such reporting is expected to shrink further due to limited access to essential services such as healthcare, legal aid and psycho social support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources are being diverted away from the criminal justice system towards health care response measures. First responders such as the police have less time to dedicate to cases of SGBV due to shifted priorities associated with imposing restrictions and monitoring social distancing measures. Judicial proceedings largely remain suspended which swells up the backlog of cases and slows the justice system. Essential services for survivors suffer from setbacks with few services having an online presence.
UNODC, UNFPA and UN Women are collaborating to conduct a series of three webinars under the title of ‘Gender and the Shadow Pandemic’ with an objective of exploring means to strengthen the criminal justice sector and enhancing the capacity of Pakistan to meet the crisis growing out of Covid-19 with reference to instances of SGBV. The series of webinars has been conceptualized against an attritions trajectory that looks at issues at the (i) stage prior to formal reporting of SGBV, (ii) stage of investigation and (iii) stage of the trial. The webinars have been curated to promote dialogue between stakeholders in the criminal justice system to bring a gendered lens to existing reforms and debates to ensure improvement in the state’s response to cases of SGBV.
Thematic Focus and Objectives:
The overall goal of the series of webinars is to improve understanding of the problem of SGBV and challenges faced by victims and survivors of SGBV through exploring good practices, latest SOPs, strategies and protocols that have been developed with the aim of ensuring remedying systems are more timely, effective and efficient. This overall goal will be achieved through a series of three related and targeted webinars that each focus on a deferent facet of the challenge of SGBV as follows:
- Increasing the reporting of SGBV and the advice available to survivors and victims of SGBV including strengthening appropriate outreach services of the
police, improved coordination of service providers and looking at examples of good practices
- Increasing availability and accessibility of protection and other essential services for survivors and victims of SGBV, including improved coordination of service providers and looking at examples of good practices; and
- Improving the access to e-justice in court rooms through integrating roles of judges, prosecutors and leveraging ICT solutions.
The first webinar was conducted on 18th June 2020 and was tailored to focus on the pre-reporting stages to discuss how reporting of SGBV can be increased
through gender sensitized policing initiatives and reforms. The second webinar was conducted on 24th June 2020 with the aims of providing participants with a better understanding of the Essential Services Package, as a policy tool, as well as assessing its implementation in the area of essential services.
The final webinar in this series was conducted on Wednesday 1st of July 2020 and will focus on exploring means to increase access to e-justice in courtrooms,
improving coordination between judges, prosecutors, lawyers, victims and complainants and operationalization of GBV courts across Pakistan.