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After COVID-19: Mitigating Domestic Gender-based Violence in Egypt in Times of Emergency

Diana Magdy, Hind Ahmed Zaki


          In times of crises and emergencies, violence against women tends to increase. The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in severe precautionary measures such as social isolation, physical distancing, staying at home, curfews and lockdowns, which brought “normal” life to a halt and created a temporary convergence between the public and the private. The pandemic has forced the global community to turn its gaze back to the private, and compelled them to pay attention to the old/new problem of gender-based violence, particularly, domestic violence that spiked during the pandemic. Against such a backdrop, and using a critical feminist lens that analyzes the historical socio-political roots of the problem, this paper revisits the national structures, mechanisms, strategies and policies that address gender-based violence in Egypt. Data for this paper was collected through various methods to measure and analyze domestic violence in Egypt. These included qualitative research tools such as expert interviews in addition to secondary data such as literature review on the policy problem, and a desk review of the official data, relevant laws, policies, and law enforcement practices related to domestic violence.

      This policy paper argues that while COVID-19 exacerbated a set of deeply-seated problems that have limited the efficacy of national policy interventions, it provided a rare opportunity for a comprehensive reassessment of the national structures of gender-based violence reporting, socio-legal interventions, and risk-mitigation. The paper further argues that while the current policies, institutions, laws and efforts have taken into consideration some of the particular challenges presented by COVID-19 in addressing domestic violence in Egypt, there remains room for more interventions that are sensitive to the root causes of the problem through a set of policy measures.

          The paper focuses on emergency services during COVID-19 through a close-up analysis of the efficacy of state-run shelters for survivors of domestic violence. Shelters continue to be globally recognized as one of the main tools for mitigating domestic violence. With that in mind, the paper analyzes the main challenges facing service providers of Shelters in Egypt and the gap that exists between international and national standards. While critical of the UN calls for combatting domestic violence worldwide without providing member states with the necessary resources or technical aid to do so, this paper demonstrates how a combined lack of resources, along with a set of complex legal loopholes and socio-cultural set of gendered beliefs about women’s role in the family unit render shelters practically useless as tools to tackle domestic violence in Egypt. COVID-19 did however, highlight the importance of the private sphere to the economic and social realms and its life sustaining role worldwide, thus making interventions to combat domestic violence both a policy and public health necessity. The paper concludes with a number of short, medium and long-term recommendations to combat domestic and gender-based violence on a national scale in Egypt post COVID-19.

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