ROME, May 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Italy announced the locking up of its coronavirus in early March, Anna Levrero, who manages a shelter for abused women in the hardest hit region of Lombardy, knew that they would make a surge in calls. But he has grappled with other challenges.
Centers for victims of domestic violence in Lombardy in northern Italy since last year were asked to give regional identities to women they helped to qualify for state funding.
Many refused, calling it a violation of privacy, and as a result they said that they had to face significant funding reductions, such as their most needed services.
Local governments say the data is needed to formulate policies. Before the requirement to provide a woman’s tax number entered, there was a risk of data duplication when someone visited more than one center, they said.
“From our perspective, this does not make sense, because if a woman suffers abuse, it’s not like she likes going from one center to another,” Levrero told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Many countries have reported spikes in calls to household harassment hotlines, even when lockdowns make it difficult for services and charities to reach isolated women at home.
Every three months confinement can produce 15 million more cases of domestic violence than is normally expected, according to UN research.
DiRe, the national network of Italian anti-violence centers, said calls to aid channels between March 2 and April 5 rose 75% in the same period in 2018, the latest comparative data available.
The director of Lombardy Cristina Carelli, who is also the coordinator for the CADMI anti-violence center in Milan, said some centers lost most of their funds after refusing to comply with the new official requirements.
“For us it is a huge loss, because the anti-violence centers have struggled to get all the funds we need,” Carelli said.
“Because we do a lot of work, we welcome many women, and this work needs to be maintained with adequate funding.”
Two shelters on the outskirts of Milan that fully rely on regional funds must be closed as a result of the decision, he said.
Carelli said Lombardy was the only Italian region to introduce tax code requirements so far, even though Umbria and Calabria had considered it.
A group of European Council experts on women and domestic violence expressed concern over the practice in a January report, saying it would “damage the trust relationship between victims and service providers”.
Previously, centers in Lombardy would have given users random alphanumeric codes, sharing this anonymized data with the authorities.
Silvia Piani, the Lombardy family minister, childcare and equal opportunities, said the region has been testing a new system since 2014, and 90% of the centers agreed to these requirements.
He said regional authorities only looked at aggregate data, which would not violate individual privacy.
“Previously, a woman came to the center, the center would fill in forms, and the form remained in the desk drawer,” he said, adding a new system that provided data on the victim’s age, work status and family situation.
When the central government ordered Lombardy to be locked on March 8, the Assistance Center for Persecuted Women (CADOM) in the city of Monza run by Levrero had to close its door, but that kept the telephone lines open.
“During the first two weeks we heard almost nothing,” he said.
“Then little by little, a large number of calls began to come in, not because there was an emergency, but for support, to hear a friendly voice, to know that when this was over they would be able to return to us.”
CADOM runs several shelters in Lombardy, but has to surrender the management of its three aid centers to other operators who sign the agreement.
Carelli said DiRe was talking to the Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities and the Elena Bonetti Family to try to find a way forward.
Bonetti told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were looking for solutions that reconciled the government’s need to obtain data on how public funds were used with victims’ rights to their anonymity.
“We don’t want to say to women, we will help you only if you give us your tax code,” Carelli said. “This is the way to do things that are very present in violence, right? This is a kind of blackmail. “(Reporting by Elaine Allaby, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please give credit to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Thomson Reuters charity, which covers the lives of people throughout the world who are struggling to live freely or fairly. Visit http: // news. trust .org)
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