It’s called the ‘shadow pandemic’ – an increase in physical, sexual and emotional abuse against women is taking place amid the blockages and societal turmoil caused by the global health crisis.
The evidence is only growing. In Nigeria, the number of reported cases of gender-based violence linked to lockdowns has increased by more than 130%. In Croatia, reported rapes increased 228% in the first five months of 2020 compared to 2019.
For many women around the world, no place is more dangerous than their own home. As the world celebrates the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, it has become clear that the pandemic has exacerbated this violence.
Abuse in any form is fundamentally wrong and constitutes a violation of basic human rights. A new staff study shows how violence against women and girls is a major threat to economic development in a region where domestic violence is prevalent: sub-Saharan Africa.
The results of our study suggest that a 1 percentage point increase in violence against women is associated with a 9% lower level of economic activity (represented by night lights).
A drain on society
Violence against women and girls has a multidimensional effect on the overall health of an economy both in the short and long term.
In the short term, women living in hotbeds of violence are likely to work fewer hours and be less productive when working. In the long run, high levels of domestic violence can reduce the number of women in the workforce, minimize the acquisition of skills and education by women, and result in less public investment overall because more resources are available. public services are assigned to health and judicial services.
Previous studies have shown that domestic violence costs a given economy between 1 and 2% of GDP. However, these studies use simple accounting mechanisms and often do not take into account potential reverse causation.
Our research takes a novel approach, matching data from in-depth surveys of women in the region with satellite images, and using appropriate technical methods to address endogeneity issues.
We examine data from the United States Agency for International Development’s Demographic and Health Survey, collected from the 1980s to the present day. The surveys ask women specific questions about abuse.
The data comes from 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, covering more than 224 districts and more than 440,000 women representing about 75 percent of the female population of sub-Saharan Africa.
Surveys found that over 30 percent of women in the region had experienced some form of domestic violence.
To measure the impact on economic development at the district level, we compare the survey data with satellite nightlight data provided by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Sleeping satellite data can be a powerful tool for measuring economic activity when the most widely used measure of economic activity, gross domestic product, is not available at the subnational level.
We have found that higher levels of violence against women and girls are associated with lower economic activity, mainly due to a significant decline in female employment. The physical, psychological and emotional violence that women endure makes it more difficult to get or keep a job.
Based on this link, if the Sub-Saharan African countries in the sample reduced the level of gender-based violence closer to the global average of 23% of abused women, it could lead to long-term GDP gains of ‘about 30 %. .
The results of the pandemic
An economic downturn, such as that caused by the pandemic, can contribute to an increase in domestic violence. This exacerbates the economic costs of domestic violence compared to normal times.
Our research also found other evidence of the negative impact of domestic violence on economic activity. Domestic violence is more damaging in countries without protective laws against domestic violence and in countries rich in natural resources where extractive industries are more likely to crowd out women-centered jobs and lead to less economic power for women.
We also found that the economic costs of violence against women are lower in countries like South Africa, where the gender gap in education is smaller between partners and where women have more decision-making power than in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Stopping violence against women is a compelling moral imperative, but our research shows that it is also important economically. The economic costs of domestic violence are higher during downturns and could make recovery more difficult.
Countries should make efforts now to strengthen laws and protections against domestic violence. Strong laws are essential to discourage violence against women, protect victims of domestic violence and promote women’s participation in the labor market.
Improving educational opportunities for girls is an important long-term step. Closing the education gender gap gives women more economic freedom and less opportunity to be influenced and controlled by men.
In efforts to rebuild better after the pandemic, policies to support women and address gender-based violence are more important than ever.
* About the authors:
- Rasmane OuÃ©draogo is an economist in the Africa Department of the IMF where he works in CÃ´te d’Ivoire.
- David Stenzel is an economist in the Africa Department of the IMF where he works on Senegal.
Source: This article was published by IMF Blog