Support for women exposed to sexual violence
Since mid-March, curfews and lockdown have been in place in Honduras. We are now seeing that violence against women, particularly sexual violence, has increased. Diakonia provides support to women who have been exposed to such violence. We have also made it possible for women with limited resources to gain access to contraception.
“A network has been formed that distributes contraceptives, condoms and pregnancy tests to women in towns and cities and in the countryside,” says Esther, who is a lawyer at our feminist partner organization Centro de Derechos de Mujeres, CDM. Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. Violence has become part of their everyday lives, and the view of contraception is harsh. Birth control pills are not sold to those under the age of 21, and morning-after pills are prohibited. CDM fights for women’s self-determination and sexual and reproductive rights.
The violence has increased
By collaborating with the “I do not want to be raped” movement, the organization has contributed to contraception being distributed in several isolated areas. It’s a tough struggle.
“From mid-March when lockdown was introduced, violence against women has increased by more than four percent in the country. In addition, 45 women have been reported murdered,” says Esther.
Provides legal advice
Due to the curfew, vulnerable women are forced to stay at home with their perpetrators, which increases the risk of violence. They are only permitted to leave their homes on certain days, and only then to buy food and medicine or visit a doctor. This is verified by checking their ID cards. Anyone who is out on the wrong day risks being arrested for 24 hours, having to pay a fine or having their vehicle confiscated.
Together with three other lawyers, Esther staffs the organization’s helpline for abused women. They provide legal advice and support that is crucial during the pandemic.
“Lockdown is a major obstacle for the women. Because they can’t move freely and public transport is down, they don’t know what to do or where to go. They’re afraid, feel shame and anxiety. They see no way out. We’ve given guidance to women who have been subjected to both attempted murder and rape,” says Esther.
To reduce the spread of infection, the courts that deal with reports of sexual violence have closed. The reports increase while the perpetrators go free. Many callers are young women.
“The police are prioritising the pandemic instead of the violence the women are exposed to,” says Esther.
Spreads information via radio
Incorrect information being spread about contraception and violence against women is also a major problem. It is difficult for women exposed to violence to know what to do, where to turn or how to report it. To reach such women with the right information, CDM also runs a radio channel.
“We inform them where they can report and discuss violence against women during the pandemic. Radio is a good way to reach the rural population. A lot people are now listening during the pandemic.”