“He’s in the next room — if he hears me, I’ll have to hang up.”That call to the FILE – An advocate works in a cubicle at the National Domestic Violence Hotline center’s facility in Austin, Texas, June 27, 2016.Hotline callsOverall, calls to domestic violence hotlines in Texas cities spiked in March as the state locked down, according to a roundup compiled by the magazine FILE – Women stay in a line to hold a banner during an action against domestic violence on the Patriarshy Bridge, with the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in the background, in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 14, 2019.RussiaRussia Psychologist Daniel Ramirez from the APIS Center Foundation for Equity attends to a patient who accuses her partner of domestic abuse, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, in Mexico City, Mexico, April 23, 2020.MexicoIn Mexico, the secretary of the interior and civil society organizations said that violence against women was increasing during lockdowns, although President FILE – A woman stands outside the health clinic in the village of Migowi, Malawi, Dec. 10, 2019.MalawiIn Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, where 46% of girls are married before age 18 and 9% before age 15, the organization People Serving Girls at Risk (PSGR) discerned a spike in child marriages when lockdowns began in March.PSGR director Caleb Ng’ombo attributed the increase to parents thinking that marrying off their daughters would relieve them of a burden during the pandemic.“It is so horrifying,” Ng’ombo said. “It is so horrifying in the sense that the girls are being forced to get into marriage.”The loss of income also has put women and girls at a greater risk of commercial sexual exploitation and pregnancy from transactional sex.“People have to weigh their options,” Ng’ombo said. “[They think], ‘If I just stay at home and don’t go out to do anything, I’ll still be killed by hunger anyways … I still have to go and sell sex.’ ”“This is where unscrupulous people are coming in to recruit children, to steal children, to abduct children, but especially girls,” said Ng’ombo, a crusader against child trafficking.Despite “very cordial” help from government institutions and police in combating sexual exploitation during the pandemic, PSGR has laid off staffers because of a lack of funding.“And this is at a critical time when we are needed the most by the girls, by the women,” Ng’ombo said. “Because time and time again, we keep getting distressing calls from women … and they’re looking for help.”As of Saturday, Malawi had reported a COVID-19 toll of more than 5,300 confirmed cases and 166 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

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