Gender-based violence caused by Covid-19 needs urgent action, says Prof. Aisha K. Gill

Gender-based violence caused by Covid-19 needs urgent action, says Prof. Aisha K. Gill

Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Aisha K. Gill as part of her regular series for ‘iGlobal’ to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.

Professor Aisha K. Gill PhD CBE is Professor of Criminology at University of Roehampton, UK. Her main areas of interest and research focus on health and criminal justice responses to violence against black, minority ethnic and refugee women in the UK, Iraqi Kurdistan, India, Pakistan and Yemen. She has been involved in addressing the problem of violence against women and girls, “honour” crimes and forced marriage at the grassroots/activist level for the past 20 years.

You have been involved in addressing the problem of violence against women and girls for over two decades. How do you feel attitudes and awareness around these issues have changed?

My research into domestic violence, child sexual abuse, sexual violence, forced marriage (FM), honour-based violence (HBV), and female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK’s black and minority ethnic (BME) communities has informed relevant police and judicial policy, both nationally and internationally. I have raised global awareness of these crimes, and their root causes, among the public and relevant policymakers, which has led to better outcomes regarding support and justice for survivors.

Sadly, during the Covid-19 pandemic, cases of domestic violence have increased. Has this been a focus for your policy work this year?

While the Covid-19 pandemic is having – and will undoubtedly continue to have – significant public health consequences across the globe, for many women and girls, the consequences of this pandemic stretch far beyond the risk of contracting the disease, because the measures taken to halt the deaths from Covid-19 are placing some women at even greater risk of harm. In the current climate, many victims/survivors are afraid to report their abuse, as illustrated by the case of one British Asian woman I have been supporting over the last few weeks, who said of her partner: “Nothing will be done, he will kill me and blame it on coronavirus. The government and the police do not care about immigrants like me.”

We must act now to tackle the increase in gender-based violence caused by Covid-19, and it is essential that the specialised needs of black and minority ethnic women and girls are considered in the design and implementation of relevant measures. We need both short-term interventions and long-term planning to tackle the current crisis and ensure that good practice developed during the pandemic can continue beyond it, because while the need for support is especially high right now, violence against women and children will not end when the lockdown does.

You were honoured with a CBE for services in tackling forced marriages, honour crimes and violence against women. How did you feel when you found out about this fantastic achievement in 2017?

I remember the day I received the very official letter. I was very conflicted in terms of the symbolism of it in terms of the violent history of colonialism. After consulting loved ones, I accepted it in the memory of my mother, Surinder Kaur, and all migrant victims/survivors of gender-based violence.

What has been the lesson you have learned during lockdown?

The importance of resilience, patience and sewa.

Which one person has had the greatest influence in your life, and why?

My mother. Her death had a profound impact on my life chances and subsequent journey into community activism.

Reena Ranger is the Chair and Co-Founder of Women Empowered. In this exclusive “In Conversation” series for ‘iGlobal’, the dynamic entrepreneur-philanthropist will be catching up with high-achieving Global Indians across different fields to spotlight some insightful life lessons.

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