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COVID-19, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and Women’s Precarity in Ivory Coast

*By Mariame Viviane Nakoulma, Ph.D.

 

The health crisis due to the COVID-19 global pandemic has led most states, including Ivory Coast, to adopt exceptional measures to limit the spread and rates of death caused by the virus. If justified in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, they raise many questions relating to the restriction of certain fundamental freedoms such as freedom of movement, assembly or enterprise. With regard to women, the current exceptional circumstances have increased their precariousness and possibly their susceptibility to SGBV.


In Ivory Coast, there is high inequality between men and women. The Gender Equality Index ranks Côte d'Ivoire 43rd out of 52 countries in Africa and 136th out of 144 countries in the world (Bad National Equality Index 2015). The country also has 63% of illiterate women in the female population compared to 49% of men in the male population. Gender-based precarity is exacerbated by the state of emergency and curfew announced on 05 April 2020 by the government. The resulting 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. confinement significantly reduces women’s income-generating activities. Most women work in the informal sector to support their families, and many of them work in the restaurant sector with a working time that continues well beyond 9 p.m. This curfew will largely affect women, and in turn affect the informal economy upon which most Ivorians rely on for survival with little to no support from the government. The lack of income for women further exposes them to reliance on a male partner or family networks which can expose them to different forms of gender-based violence.


Current data indicates that the health emergency measures such as lockdowns, favor SGBV. While women and th