Globally, according to several and latest studies gender base violence has suddenly increased more than 3 times as reported since the advent of Covid.
For example, according to the World Health Organization GBV has put an enormous
burden on health care services for women and has proved to be more costly, as the
cases in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), physical injuries, miscarriages, severe
psychological conditions and even death, increase daily. Moreover, 30% of married/partnered women have experienced Intimate Partner Violence. Additionally, 7% of women have experienced non-partner sexual violence.
Several research have shown each year, about12 million girls are married before they are 18 years old; and that the COVID-19 pandemic escalated GVB/VAWG to a level that about 31million
cases of GBV occurred during an average lockdown of 6 months.
As disability sausage media we opine that Public and private Companies and leaders have a responsibility to ensure the workspace is a safe working environment for employees.
To put matters differently, we opine that business need to address sexual harassment when workers return to the office. However, the landscape has since changed with dawn of covid now we speak of remote working, working from home and hybrid models.
Why the need for policy shift? We believe Policies and protocols need to be expanded to now also incorporate gender-based violence (GBVH) to take into account the following factors:
• Domestic abuse - working from home situations where employees are not safe due to toxic/abusive home situations.
• Child abuse - children that are at home due to school closures/home schooling are more susceptible to abuse, especially if they are alone with their perpetrator.
• Increase of discrimination, restrictive environments, ableism tendencies and marginalization of persons with disabilities.
• patriarchal system in many societies which
• makes intimate partner violence cases not to be reported nor their urgency seen and
• if reported, families are made to favor out-of-court settlements that still left victims
• not receiving fair hearing/justice while perpetrators are not punished according to
• laws to serve as deterrent.
poor/inadequate resourcing/funding of state/formal agencies/institution saddled
• with the responsibility of bringing legal justice in cases of GBV, while resources are
• not usually unavailable to some organizations of persons with disabilities, and youth led initiatives to bring
• awareness on GBV issues.
• Furthermore, lack of economic empowerment of victims makes many GBV cases go unreported as
• victims often still have to rely on the perpetrators for basic needs from the
• Sexual harassment and misconduct – some of these behaviors have shifted from in-office to on-line across the various channels and platforms such as WhatsApp, Slack, private/anonymous messaging option on Zoom, MS Teams etc.
• Mental health and Employee wellness - we can't be talking mental health and employee wellness if we are not making provision for the different scenarios that fall across the GBVH spectrum. That's just lip-service.
There also needs to be ongoing, regular awareness and training communicated within organizations to employees, as
well as the various support options both victims and perpetrators have access to, not just an annual tick the box compliance approach.
Majority of campaigns out there focus on the victim and place the responsibility on the victim to change their circumstances BUT, we also need to talk to perpetrators to help them recognize the impact of their behavior and also get help to shift this. If there were no perpetrators, there would be no victims.
Not sure where to start?
Let us assist you with a policy audit and review
The home is now the workplace and the lines have become very blurred…
Many organizational policies still make reference to the physical workplace itself, and have not been updated to include a remote or work from home environment. This can result in non-compliance and serious ramifications for businesses and leaders.
According to several reports, many organizations have started to implement employee wellness initiatives to help employees implement self-care routines, and to find a balance between home responsibilities and work deliverables. But, one one topic that is not being covered accurately under the employee wellness banner is gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH).
The pandemic has resulted in a spike in both divorce and GBVH stats globally and many organizations are starting to realize that employees are not necessarily safe working from home. Whether we want to admit it or not, gender-based violence happens on a daily basis in our homes, our communities and our businesses.
Many organizations have not updated their policies and protocols to include and provide support for GBVH under their employee wellness or training offerings, and could find themselves in hot water.
Let us protect your risk by auditing and reviewing your policies and training and development to ensure you are:
• Compliant with Legislation.
• Protecting your brand and reducing your reputational risk
• In a position to keep your employees safe.
• Empowering your employees and leadership with skills to manage GBVH
• Ensuring your policies are gender inclusive, disability inclusive, relevant and up to date
• Equipped to provide a safe working environment
• Fit to be an Employer of Choice
Let us ensure your organization is compliant, that your employees are emotionally and physically safe and that you reduce the impact on your bottom line.
These policy reforms could save your organization lots of money…
Failure to comply with carries fines and imprisonment with a criminal record and where non-compliance leads to injury or casualty, the employer will face liability
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The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.
Australian Chief Minister Award winner
“Excellence of making inclusion happen”