COVID-19’s Impact on VAWG and Gender Inequality

Women are more likely to provide additional care for children, older people, or disabled people. Research shows that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting sectors with more female employment, meaning women are 24 per cent more likely to permanently lose their job than men (1). Women are also more likely to work in part-time, insecure and low-pay jobs affected by COVID-19, such as retail, catering, cleaning or caring. As a result, women are more likely to experience the additional pressures of care work and are more likely to suffer economic hardship during and after this pandemic. Globally women make up 70% of the health and social care workforce, increasing women’s risk of exposure to the virus, while a reduction in non-essential healthcare provision will likely impact upon sexual and reproductive healthcare services (2).

COVID-19’s Impact on Women’s safety

Lockdown and COVID-19 related social isolation has resulted in significant concerns over women’s safety. Refuge has highlighted an 80% increase in calls to their domestic abuse hotline (3), and Scottish Women’s Aid has reported a significant impact on refuge accommodation, child contact and access to justice (4). Between June 25th and July 1st 2020, 121 children were placed on the child protection register, 48% of whom had domestic abuse reported as a factor in their registration, representing a 12% increase on the same week in 2019 (5).

COVID-19’s Impact on marginalised women

Primary prevention must take into account the experiences of women and girls through the pandemic, with particular focus on the experiences of marginalised women and girls. Each minority group will have different experiences and needs as a result of the pandemic, these must be incorporated into Scotland’s approach to reconstruction and response from Covid 19. Some of these experiences are captured below but ongoing consultation is required.

  • Reports of interpersonal racism against women have significantly increased during the pandemic as a result of anti-Asian racism and ‘fakenews’ promoting the idea that Muslim people are ‘superspreaders’ (6). Muslim women are more likely to experience abuse in public and online than Muslim men (7).
  • Specialist ethnic minority domestic abuse support organisations have reported a decrease in contact from women experiencing honour-based violence, raising concerns that women are unable to make contact due to stricter controls on their freedom (8).
  • Women who sell sex have experienced serious financial hardship, with a disproportionate number of women selling sex facing destitution. The virus has increased the risk of violence and coercion from clients and caused increased fear of stigma as women turn towards less safe or online means of making money (9).
  • Disabled people are more likely to say that they will come out of the crisis in more debt, and over a third of disabled mothers are struggling to feed their children (10). Some disabled women have complex needs which make it difficult for them to find and access refuges; Sisters of Frida have highlighted the need for services to do more than the required ‘reasonable adjustments’ to meet the needs of disabled women in danger of domestic abuse (11). Disabled women have reported additional hardships in accessing food and essential supplies, medical care, and personal assistant or care services. They have also reported higher levels of anxiety due to concerns over blanket Do Not Resuscitate orders for vulnerable people (12).
  • During the first week of lockdown, LGBT Foundation experienced a 450% increase in calls related to biphobia, a 100% increase in calls about transphobia, and a 52% increase in calls relating to homophobia. 8% of LGBT+ people reported that they do not feel safe at home during the crisis because of LGBT+-phobic families and housemates, or because of domestic abuse. There has been a 38% increase in LGBT+ people referred for domestic abuse support, an increase in reported hate crime, and a decrease in access to healthcare (13).


  1. Dang and Nguyen (2021), Gender inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic: Income, expenditure, savings, and job loss (
  2. Engender Breifing: Women and COVID-19 (; Mckinsey 2020, COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects (; Alon et al. 2020 The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality, The University of California (
  3. UNDP Gender inequality and the COVID-19 crisis: A Human Development Perspective (
  4. Corona Virus: domestic abuse hotline sees surge (
  5. Crisis and Resilience: Impact of a global pandemic on domestic abuse survivors and service providers in Scotland (
  6. Locked in abuse, locked out of safety. The pandemic experiences of Migrant women. Safety for Sisters (
  7. Locked in abuse, locked out of safety. The pandemic experiences of Migrant women. Safety for Sisters (
  8. Coronavirus (COVID 19): domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls during Phases 1, 2 and 3 of Scotland’s route map (
  9. Encompass, Covid-19 moving out of lockdown. The experiences and needs of women in the sex industry. (
  10. Disabled women and Covid-19 – Research Evidence (
  11. The impact of Covid-19 on Disabled Women from Sisters of Frida (
  12. The impact of Covid-19 on Disabled Women from Sisters of Frida (
  13. Hidden Figures: The impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on LGBT Communities in the UK (

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