Global Human Rights Defence

Domestic Violence in Times of the Corona-19 Pandemic in South America
Picture: Representational image, Unsplash/Hindustan Times.

Author: Gabriel Borba and Thamires Herzing


After more than three decades of work by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, in 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted the most valuable human rights treaty concerning women’s rights (UN General Assembly, 1979). The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was created to provide rights and obligations against gender-based discrimination (UN General Assembly, 1979). Furthermore, the Belém do Pará Convention, adopted in 1994 by the Inter-American Commission of Women of the Organization of American States, strengthened women’s rights by  specifically addressing gender-based violence. Thus, the Convention asserts that the State parties must criminalize domestic violence inside their territory (Inter-American Commission of Women, 1994). Consequently,  domestic violence can be now defined as any kind of violence against women (physical, sexual, psychological, moral or property damage) in the scope of the domestic unit, within the family, or in any intimate relationship (Lei nº 11.340, 2006). 

Nevertheless, even with the aforementioned human rights thresholds, South American women are still facing an increase in domestic violence since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 (G1, 2021). In this regard, this article limits itself to examine the increase of violence, numbers and specific cases to illustrate South America’s reality. 

Understanding why the cases of domestic violence increased during the quarantine period

Due to the pandemic, 116 countries have implemented lockdown and curfews as a public health strategy with the aim of reducing the contagion rate (Hale et al., 2020). This situation has exposed women to greater amounts of domestic work in their homes. As a result, making them spend much more time with the men of the family, amid greater tensions due to confinement in spaces, often in overcrowded conditions, with deprivation of materials and food as the result of the massive loss of jobs and other sources of income (Ariza-Sosa et al., 2021)

In June of 2021, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Labour Organization released a joint study aiming to analyze the impact of the pandemic on the economy. The Employment Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean report stated that regional GDP in 2020 experienced a -7.1% contraction, the biggest in a century, producing an increase in the unemployment rate, which reached 10.5% on average that same year. As a result, unemployment has intensified strained relationships and created more frustration amongst families (Cepal, 2021), as it forces people to stay at home, with a lack of resources to feed their families.

Consequently, increases have been reported in the different forms of violence against women: physical, sexual, economic, and psychological, in countries such as Argentina (Carrasco & Martínez Reina, 2020), Ecuador (Chamba-Parra et al., 2020), as well as in other Latin American countries. Additionally, this situation has been evidenced with an increase in calls to hotlines for women, the use of shelters, an increase in complaints of sexual violence, as well as higher numbers of femicides and disappearances of women (Ariza-Sosa et al., 2021).

The increase in cases of domestic violence against women in South America

Unfortunately, the numbers support the thesis that the pandemic caused an increase in domestic violence cases in several South American countries. Below we will explore the numbers from Brazil and Peru. 

Comparatively, the number of complaints registered in March of 2020 by Ligue 180 (“Call 180” in English), the Brazilian hotline for reporting domestic violence and abuse against women, was 15% higher than in March 2019 (Agência Brasil, 2021). According to the National Ombudsman for Human Rights, Fernando César Pereira Ferreira: “Considering what has happened in countries affected by the disease before Brazil, the results from January to March were, in a way, expected”. Even so, the performance recorded in April was a negative surprise: reports of violations of women’s rights and integrity increased by 36% compared to April 2019. (Agência Brasil, 2021)

In the city of São Paulo, Brazil, from January to April 2019, 55 cases of femicide were registered. During the same period of 2020, there were 71 reports. In 2021, there were 53 gender-based murders of women, according to data from the Public Security Secretariat (SSP). Regarding protective measures, there were almost 47 thousand requests in 2019 in comparison to more than 52 thousand in 2020. In the first four months of 2021, the total had already exceeded 21 thousand. Therefore, the trend for this year is expected to grow (Agência Brasil, 2021).

Meanwhile, in Peru, the Demographic and Family Health Survey (Endes) revealed that 54.8% of women were victims of psychological, physical, or sexual violence by their husband or partner during 2020. In Lima systematic abuse increased from 5% to 8%, according to a study carried out by the National Institute of Mental Health (INSM). According to figures from Line 100, the telephone service of the Ministry of Women to report family and sexual violence, around 235,000 cases have been registered during the pandemic, almost double the number in 2019 (El Comercio, 2021).

The reality of south american women during the pandemic

One should not deny that after the aforementioned discussion, different narratives ought to be examined to showcase the reality of South American women during the pandemic. As documented by G1, a Brazilian newspaper, since March 2020, 1,500 women have sought shelters seeking refuge from domestic abuses in São Paulo alone (G1, 2021). Vitória (fictitious name), 23 years, had to live with her partner during the pandemic, and since then, started suffering patrimonial, physical and verbal abuses after repeated jealousy crises (G1, 2021). Her partner threatened to kill her with a knife, prevented her from talking to other people, and even broke her cell phone (G1, 2021).

Renata (fictitious name), 36 years, also shared her brutal statement: 

“He was starting to attack me. It was no longer possible for me to live with him without having anything to do with him, without money to pay for the house. There was no way. That day, I was standing on the couch. He pushed my head into the wall. I was afraid that, at that time, my daughter would be without me. But it hurt more because people heard my screams and no one came to my door to help me” (G1, 2021).

Furthermore, Valeria Caggiano from Uruguai points to the fact that all the tension during confinement results in an escalation of violent feelings and behavior (R7, 2020). The same happens in Peru, as stated by the newspaper El Comercio: 

“In the strongest peaks of confinement, as a result of the pandemic, the possibilities of victims to be able to appeal and ask for help, file timely complaints for attacks or even the possibility of being able to resort to making emergency calls were reduced [.. .] These cases have not been possible or have not been made visible as expected” (El Comercio, 2021).

It is clear from these observations that the pandemic only aggravated pre-existing domestic abuses (G1, 2021).

Another worrying fact has to do with  the lack of financial freedom that prevents women from making decisions about their own lives and departing from toxic households (G1, 2021). In this sense, during the pandemic, women who are in abusive relationships are confined with their abusers, and without the possibility of government assistance.

Concluding Remarks 

To conclude, in times where women are exposed to loads of violence and access to justice is restricted, local governments must emphasize the full implementation of resources to mitigate any gender-based violence. Proper accountability from the perpetrators, access to justice, implementation of shelters, access to health care are only a few examples to achieve a “gender-sensitive intersectional approach in their responses to COVID-19” as established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2020 while delivering the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (United Nations General Assembly, 2020).


Ariza-Sosa, G., Agudelo-Galeano, J., Saldarriaga-Quintero, L., Ortega-Mosquera, M., & Saldarriaga-Grisales, D. (2021). Crisis humanitaria de emergencia en Colombia por violencia contra las mujeres durante la pandemia de COVID-19. Revista De La Facultad De Derecho Y Ciencias Políticas, 51(134), 125-150.

Carrasco,  L.,  &  Martínez,  M.  J.  (2020).  Riesgos  inminentes,  cuerpos  descorporizados,  silencios que gritan, luchas colectivas o muerte: efectos de la pandemia COVID-19 en la configuración de las violencias contra las mujeres. Red Sociales, Revista del Departamento de Ciencias Sociales, 7(2), 46–57.Retrieved 21 October 2021, from

Casos de violência doméstica estão subnotificados na pandemia. Agência Brasil. (2021). Retrieved 21 October 2021, from

Denunciar Violencia Familiar y Sexual – Línea 100. (2021). Retrieved 21 October 2021, from

Estudios revelan que violencia contra la mujer no se ha detenido en tiempos de pandemia. (2021). Retrieved 21 October 2021, from

G1. (2021). Dias de pavor e a busca pela ajuda: conheça histórias de mulheres que denunciaram a violência doméstica durante a pandemia. G1. Retrieved 22 October 2021, from

G1. (2021). ‘Ele ia me matar’, diz uma das 1.500 vítimas de violência doméstica que foram morar em abrigos na pandemia em SP. G1. Retrieved 22 October 2021, from

Hale, T., Angrist, N., Cameron-Blake, E., Hallas, L., Kira, B., Majumdar, S., Petherick, A., Phillips, T., Tatlow, H., & Webster Samuel. (2020). Stay-at-home requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, Blavatnik School of Government. Our World in Data.  Retrieved 21 October 2021, from

Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM). Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (1994).

Labor Markets in the Region Will Be Slow to Recover from the Severe Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 | Press Release | Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. (2021). Retrieved 21 October 2021, from

LEI Nº 11.340 (2006). Brasil.

Perú, E., & Perú, R. (2021). Aumentan casos de violencia contra la mujer en tiempos de pandemia. El Comercio Perú. Retrieved 21 October 2021, from

R7. (2020). Violência contra a mulher avança com coronavírus na América Latina. Retrieved 22 October 2021, from

UN General Assembly. (1979). Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1249, p. 13.

United Nations General Assembly. (2020). Violence against women, its causes and consequences (A/75/144). Retrieved 22 October 2021, from

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.