COVID-19 Recovery Plans Ignore Needs of Sex Abuse Victims, says Hawaii Group

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Photo by Mirko Cecchi via Flickr

The post-crisis economic recovery should include funds for new infrastructure to help sex trafficking and domestic violence survivors as well as other measures to explicitly address the needs of women affected by the coronavirus pandemic, says the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women.

In what it calls the country’s first “feminist” blueprint for economic revival, the Commission proposed a set of recommendations targeted at ensuring that women’s maternal, sexual, reproductive and mental health needs would not be ignored. Although the recommendations were specifically oriented towards Hawaii, the Commission made clear that it believed women in other states needed the same special attention.

“Recovery stimulus funds are supposed to be neutral, but we know this is not possible in a gendered society without a thoughtful plan that ties in gender with race, indigeneity and class,” the commission said.

Commission authors said they drafted their recovery plan, Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs, because of  “growing frustration” that women’s needs would receive less consideration by authorities as they developed programs to get the American economy running again.

In Hawaii, the “collateral impacts of economic shock, job loss, school closures, and shelter-in-place” have driven up the incidence of domestic violence and victimized women in all areas of the economy, said Khara Jabola-Carolus, the Commission’s  executive director, in a statement accompanying the report.

“It is clear that gendered phenomenon like domestic violence, single motherhood, sex trafficking and onerous caregiving were not considered in the pandemic response. This is our plan to stop a return to the status quo and to build a recovery capable of delivering gender equality.”

The recommendations include setting aside funds to provide hotel rooms for unsheltered women and victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and sex trafficking, LGBTQ youth and others who unable to access safe spaces during the lockdown.

To support women’s economic independence and preventing women from turning to sex work as a “last resort” for money during the economic crisis, Hawaii should offer job opportunities for women.

Stimulus funds should also be used to expand the state Department of Health COVID-19 monitoring and contact tracing program to target women, the commission said..

And for sex workers who have lost income as a result of the drying up of tourism to Hawaii, the plan includes a recommendation for economic support that will help them make a “humane” transition to other kinds of work.

The commission developed its recommendation in consultation with local women’s organizations.  Noting that Hawaii has received a “C” grade in the category of employment and earnings for women in The Status of Women in the States, a data-driven project spearheaded by the Institute for Women’s Policy Institute, the report said women in the  state—and particularly native women—were at special risk  as a result of the economic paralysis caused the lockdown.

But it noted the problem was nationwide, citing recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing women represented 60 percent of people laid off in the pandemic.

“COVID-19 exposes the crisis of silence about the oppression of women in the United States,” said Jabola-Carolus.

The full report is accessible here.

This summary was produced by TCR staff writer Andrea Cipriano.

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