Within a couple of weeks, Italy has gone from having a few cases of COVID-19 to having the highest number of deaths in the world. Due to the emergency, the Italian government has put the country under a total lockdown, restricting the movement of the population, except in cases of necessity. This means that, as in many other countries, people are obliged to stay at home to prevent the disease from spreading further.
The lockdown is a necessary measure, but for many women, home is not a safe place. According to statistics(1) , in Italy every three days a woman is killed, and the forced cohabitation around the clock may increase the episodes of domestic violence and femicide.
Women’s shelters and centres in Italy are also facing difficulties, since due the Coronavirus pandemic additional measures are needed to support survivors. For instance, women in need of immediate protection should be first sheltered in a quarantined environment, before being hosted in a women’s shelter. Women’s support services are not equipped to provide such assistance and are also lacking the minimum equipment to face the emergency, such as face masks. Moreover, according to the WAVE Country Report 2019, 87% of the necessary beds in shelters is missing. An increase in domestic violence cases will put the few available services under excessive strain. For this reason, Italian women’s centres asked for urgent support from the government. (2)
On March 24th, thanks to the collaboration between the Minister for Equal Opportunities and Family, Elena Bonetti, and the Minister of Interiors, Luciana Lamorgese, the first step to support survivors of domestic violence during the Coronavirus emergency was taken. Italian prefectures and municipalities are currently asked to provide additional shelters to support survivors of domestic violence, that due to current emergency cannot be hosted by women’s shelters. The Italian Department for Equal Opportunities is offering financial support to face the related costs.
It is unknown, how long the Coronavirus emergency will last. What is clear, is that women’s support services are facing an additional emergency and are doing their best to provide support to survivors of domestic violence. D.i.Re, the Italian women’s network against violence, addressed the Italian government asking for a national synergy and strategy, in particular to provide adequate financial support.(3) Right now, many of the women helped by D.i.Re are losing their jobs because of the Coronavirus crisis: this implies a much more difficult process to be free from violence and economically independent from the perpetrator. Therefore, financial support shall be provided to women survivors of violence too. Most importantly, the governmental support to women’s centres and shelters should not be limited to this emergency, but needs to be increased and guaranteed also in the future, especially considering the lack of compliance with the Istanbul Convention in different fields, such as the women’s shelters capacity, as mentioned above.
By Elena Floriani, WAVE Communications and Research Officer
(1) Eures, “Femminicidio e violenza di genere in Italia”, 2019.