Cases of domestic violence increased drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictive movement, curfews, and the extended lockdowns were all contributing factors to the escalation of violence within households globally as well as in Jordan.
Gender-based violence is a global threat that survives through harmful gender norms and silence. Jordan is no exception and women and girls including persons with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by violence. Covid-19 has further exacerbated the negative impact of domestic violence, as survivors are now forced to stay for extended time under the same roof as their abusers. Lack of accessible social and health care services as well as safe transportation to these services are making it harder for survivors to seek help and resources.
This year, 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign, which started on 25 November and is ending on 10 December, made a global call to action against domestic violence. While the campaign is global, the efforts made are local and are based on the unique challenges facing women in different countries.
To amplify local voices, UNDP Jordan invited 16 women from across the country to share their opinion and knowledge on domestic violence during the 16 Days of Activism against GBV. This is urgently needed as statistics from the 2017-2018 Demographic and Health Survey released by the Department of Statistics shows that 69% of men age 15 – 49 believe that a husband can be justified in beating his wife. Almost half of ever-married women agrees with this statement showing that 46% believe that wife beating can be justified for a variety of reasons.
Through UNDP’s social media platforms, the 16 women engaged more than 14,000 people mainly in Jordan but also regional stakeholders over the course of the 16 Days of Activism against GBV.
"I don’t think there is a reason that can justify women being exposed to violence within her family and her household. Yet it still exists. The reasons are many and I think especially social norms, lack of awareness, and cultural stigma are some of the reasons behind the high rate of violence against women,” said Hadeel, a young woman from Northern Jordan working as a youth volunteer with a non-governmental organization.
Similarly, Eman, a housewife from Southern Jordan used her opportunity to speak to a wider audience through the social media platform provided by UNDP to raise her voice about access to social services. “Psychological and legal support services are extremely important priorities amidst Covid-19. Service providers must be available, accessible, and if not free, at least affordable. Domestic violence survivors who live under the same roof as their perpetrator rely heavily on these services for psychosocial support and mental well-being. To function under such circumstances, women need to know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
While services are important, they are only utilized if women break the silence. The Department of Statistics survey show that 67% of domestic violence survivors keep their situation hidden from the outside world.
Shadia from Northern Jordan a mother of seven children and a tailor shared a piece of advice to women and girls who hide the violence with silence. “If I would give a piece of advice it is never to stay silent when you’re a victim of violence, there is nothing to hide or to be ashamed of. Every woman out there has the full right to defend herself and her rights.” Hadeel agrees to this, “intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence. This is unacceptable. The people who carefor you should never beat you.”
Looking back at their combined efforts and the last 16 Days, Hadeel, Eman, and Shadia now hope that women’s voices all over Jordan will continue to be heard. As Shadia says, “let’s promise each other to raise other women’s voices each and every day.”
History of 16 days of Activism campaign
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign which takes place each year and runs from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to 10 December, International Human Rights Day. In support of this civil society initiative, the UN System, under the leadership of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, calls for global action to increase awareness on GBV, galvanize advocacy efforts and share knowledge and innovations.
Since 2007, Jordanian civil society organizations, JNCW, UN agencies and members of the international community have joined efforts to raise awareness on gender-based violence. Everyone is invited to join the campaign on social media using the hashtag #16DaysJo #TogetherAgainstViolence and نحن_معكم_ضد_العنف#.