The covid-19 pandemic and its impact on women

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland 
11 June 2020

Amidst all the health problems and upheaval that are taking place resulting from the covid-19 pandemic, the Communist Party of Ireland points out that it is easy to overlook the specific distress that thousands of women are suffering in their own homes. 
      Lockdown, being experienced by our people across the whole country, has resulted in an alarming growth in psychological, physical and sexual violence against women and girls. Those with violent partners find themselves isolated from the people and resources that can help them. 
      The growth in the number of women murdered and the widespread rise in violence against women and girls across the globe have been exacerbated under conditions of lockdown, which has intensified this violence and control. This growth in violence reflects the different historical and cultural traditions imposed on women and their subordinate role within society. This violence is also a reflection of and connected to a rise of right-wing and extreme religious forces as the crisis of the system continues to deepen. 
      Domestic violence figures in the North are at the highest level since records began. The Police Service of Northern Ireland revealed that they have received at least 3,755 calls related to domestic abuse since the coronavirus lockdown began, and Amnesty International is urging the Northern Ireland Executive to provide emergency funding to groups helping victims of domestic violence. 
      In the Republic domestic violence reports to the Garda have increased by 30 per cent in some areas. Much of the violence and disorder associated with excessive drinking has switched to the home environment. Women’s Aid say that the true spike in domestic attacks is probably much higher, because many victims are now in lockdown at home in close proximity with their abusers, and they have lost the opportunity to reach out for help. 
      Women’s Aid refuges, which were starved of money under various British governments and Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments, now have to manage in this crisis situation by relying on charity. Reports show that twenty-one women’s refuges in the Republic are now full. “Nine of these involve communal living spaces, so contingency plans have had to be put in place to limit movements, making social distancing impossible, thereby endangering all who use these refuges. Some victims and their children may have to be moved into AirBnB accommodation to allow for social distancing, though it is unclear how this will be funded by the agencies.” Research shows that when societies are under stress the rates of domestic and sexual violence increase. 
      Problems associated with undervalued work, access to abortion services and extra care duties at home and at work are amplified in this crisis. Covid-19 may not know any boundaries regarding class and nationality, but in 2020 the rapid spread of the new coronavirus has dramatically shifted our domestic and economic landscape, and it is working-class women and their families who are likely to be hit first and hardest by the recession and the imposition of further austerity that will follow. 
      We also recognise that women seeking asylum, those trapped in wartorn areas and those forced to live on the fringes of society experience even more repression and need our solidarity more than ever.