A Tigrayan woman who says she was gang raped speaks to a doctor-turned-refugee at the Sudanese Red Crescent clinic in Hamdayet, near the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in eastern Sudan, March 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 1 in 3 women aged 15 and older have been subjected at least once in their lifetime to physical or sexual violence from a current or former intimate partner, a non-partner, or both. However, access to services and supports for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is becoming more constrained in a growing number of situations across the world. Recent coups and ongoing conflicts, high levels of displacement, political oppression—including internet disruption and other tactics of regime control—and the destruction of state institutions, combined with restrictions on movement and the interruption of services due to COVID-19, are taking a toll on the ability of local communities and civil society organizations to respond to SGBV. Like conflict, COVID-19 has also been shown to have an exacerbating effect on gender-based violence.

Sexual and gender-based violence can have serious short- and long-term implications for physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health—including lasting injury, unintended pregnancy, higher rates of sexually transmitted infection, depression, and fatal outcomes such as homicide and suicide—as well as enormous social and economic costs for survivors, their families, and societies. In 2019, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2467, affirming the rights of survivors to access services, supports, and justice. Survivor-centered services at the community level are essential but can be difficult to safely access and safely provide.

The pandemic has seen the delivery of some services in innovative ways, including remote assistance and, crucially, employing greater numbers of local community members to deliver services. However, even these adaptations may struggle to secure survivors’ rights in unstable political contexts where the state has territorial control and impunity is entrenched. Ethiopia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sudan, and South Sudan are among the places where it will be difficult and dangerous to collect data on women’s experiences of violence and intimidation and to provide urgently needed survivor-centered care. Read more