Organizations warned of a deadly upward trend in homicide when the pandemic began. New data confirms their predictions

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People are holding signs as they march in front of a candlelight vigil held in honor of Rebekah Love Harry, a victim of domestic violence, in Montreal on April 3.CHRISTINNE MUSCHI / Reuters

The number of women victims of murder has increased in Canada over the past two years, according to preliminary data that researchers say reflects an increase in lethal violence in the home caused by the covid-19 pandemic.

The peak – with 92 women killed in the first six months of this year, an increase from 78 in the first half of 2020 and 60 in the first half of 2019 – confirms a deadly trend that many anti-violence groups have warned about since then. the beginning of the pandemic.

As activists mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Thursday, the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability warns that the deadly trend could continue through 2022 – especially as the fallout from the pandemic continues to affect women disproportionately.

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“When a catastrophe occurs, women are usually more profoundly affected than men, materially and in terms of experiences of violence. They are closely related,” said Myrna Dawson, executive director of the observatory and expert on domestic violence. “These effects cease. not as soon as a disaster is under control. They are felt for decades. And so I think there’s a real concern about what we should do about it. “

This is not just a Canadian problem, but a global problem, says Professor Dawson, who is also the director of the University of Guelph’s Center for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence – and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“We have often seen murder or murder of women as a barometer of what is happening that we cannot see,” said prof. Dawson. “And so if we see this increase in lethal violence, then it’s likely that this is also going on with non-lethal violence, but we do not see that much because it does not lead to a woman’s death.”

Police forces across the country have reported increases in the number of calls related to domestic violence. The social services have also mentioned that the violence to which women are exposed during the pandemic has increased.

NousToutes (All of us) activists hold candles to pay tribute to the victims of this year’s 100th and 101st murders of women in France, in front of the Pantheon Mausoleum in Paris on 16 November.JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP / Getty Images

But while lock-in orders and limited access to social support have played a role, Prof. Dawson said this increase in female homicides began before covid-19.

“The pandemic does not turn non-violent men into violent men,” said prof. Dawson. “It has made situations worse.”

Families and couples have been forced into closer proximity for extended periods of time amid frustrations over unemployment and restrictions on services. And although women (who are disproportionately exposed to domestic violence and close partners) may have previously developed strategies to protect themselves and their children from abusive partners or relatives, these supports or places would probably have been more difficult to access during the last two years.

The Femicid Observatory, run by the University of Guelph, tracks cases of women and girls dying of violence across the country in an attempt to learn more about how these deaths occur and what can be done to prevent them. The nuances of individual murder cases can be difficult to capture in this way, as researchers rely on local media reports and police press releases – which often do not contain much detail.

Relatives and friends of victims of genocide are holding a march called “Voices of Absence” in memory of their loved ones and to demand justice in Mexico City on November 3.EDGARD GARRIDO / Reuters

Of the five homicide cases in 2021 so far, the observatory has been able to distinguish the relationship between the victim and her alleged killer in 61 percent of the cases. In 37 percent of the cases, the accused was a current or former intimate partner. In 15 percent of the cases, the accused was a family member. In 1 percent it was an acquaintance and in 8 percent a stranger.

“Where we knew about the relationship, the largest group was still the murder of intimate partners, followed by another family [members]”, said Prof. Dawson.

For example, she said, another worrying trend is that sons are killing their mothers.

The federal government Speech from the throne on Tuesday cited the “unacceptable increase in violence against women and girls” during the pandemic so far, noting a commitment to move forward with a 10-year national action plan against gender-based violence.

In an email on Wednesday, Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, called gender-based violence “a public health risk, a national security problem, a serious violation of human rights and a significant obstacle to gender equality in Canada.”

She also acknowledged the disproportionate violence against certain sections of the population, including black, domestic and racist women, as well as LGBTQ people and those living in rural or remote communities.

Top: A woman dressed as Catrina participates in “Catrina’s March” to protest against murder and violence against women in Mexico City on November 1. Above: Emotional activists honor victims of genocide as part of Day of the Dead in La Paz, Bolivia, on November 1.CLAUDIA MORALES / Reuters

“Our government has committed nearly $ 300 million to support Canadians who experience gender-based violence during and after the pandemic, “she said, noting that The 2021 budget also includes $ 601.3 million for five years to work towards the national action plan.

Prof. Dawson emphasized the importance of long-term planning and financing, in addition to emergency measures. In addition to focusing on issues such as accessible childcare and employment stimulation to help women return to the workforce, she says there must also be a recognition that women will continue to be exposed to violence.

“Even as we begin to feel that we are living normally again, the effects of what the pandemic has done … will resonate for a series of years,” she said. “Women will still be exposed to violence. So we must have sustainable investments in the agencies that try to help them.”

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