Washington D.C. – The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly exacerbated gender-based violence (GBV) in Central America, a region where this violence is already widespread and the main driver of forced migration to the United States. In a new report, Dual Crisis: Gender-based Violence and Inequality Facing Children and Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) details the myriad ways the pandemic has placed many more children and women in grave danger of GBV and has widened existing gender inequality in access to education, healthcare, and livelihoods. The report provides recommendations to the governments of Central America and the United States on how to protect children and women against GBV amid the pandemic and mitigate forced migration from the region.
“This report makes clear that we need to confront the intensifying crisis of gender-based violence in Central America to save lives and prevent the loss of countless children and women to years of abuse, suffering, loss of opportunity, and entrenched inequality,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “We must address the lack of protection and access to justice that has deepened during the pandemic. Without action, the United States may see a significant increase in children and women seeking protection in the coming months or years.”
The closure of schools and other public spaces, the decreased capacity of already weak child protection and judicial institutions, and the shifting of public resources to respond to the pandemic has left survivors with few options for seeking protection and support. Gangs and other organized criminal groups swiftly adapted to the new normal, taking advantage of COVID-related restrictions to tighten or expand their control over people and territory, using violence to reinforce their growing power. Children and women from marginalized backgrounds were especially impacted during the pandemic due to systemic discrimination that has long limited their access to resources.
Combatting gender-based violence is one of the five pillars of the Biden Administration’s Strategy for Addressing the Root Causes of Migration. KIND’s report stresses that GBV must be addressed in each of the other pillars and that the strategy must be implemented with a gender lens. The first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality issued by the White House last month is also an important step toward advancing gender equality both domestically and internationally that also recognizes gender-based violence and gender inequality as pernicious factors that drive forced migration from Central America and around the world.
“We are at an important inflection point where we can learn from the pain and suffering caused by the pandemic and use it as a catalyst to do better for the children and women of Central America,” Young added. “We can prioritize their protection against GBV and tackle the gender inequality that has plagued them for generations. Each country and the region as a whole will be stronger as a result and could look towards a future with more promise and opportunity.”
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990