Table 1

Summary of critiques and recommendations for modelling gender-based violence (GBV) during COVID-19

CritiqueExample from models estimating effect of COVID-19 on GBV*Recommendation and/or opportunity to strengthen GBV modelling
(1)Oversimplification of a complex phenomenon
  • Lack of theoretical framework.

  • Assuming a singular or limited number of pathways/factors link COVID-19 and GBV.

  • No discussion of which pathways/factors are missing in the model or how each pathway/factor is measured.

  • Including or combining predictors/variables (eg, poverty and GDP) at multiple levels (household, institutional, national) without consideration of how these interact with each other to influence GBV.

  • Develop or adapt an evidence-based theory of change to account for, and model multiple underlying pathways/factors linking COVID-19 and GBV.

  • Explicitly define and cite data sources, variables and estimates from prior studies, with attention to level of measurement.

  • If focusing on a singular pathway/factor, properly acknowledge and state this assumption/limitation in discussion or results.

(2)Overgeneralisation of estimates and results across geographies and intervention typologies
  • Applying estimates from a small number of intervention studies to make global projections.

  • Applying results on pathways/factors linking COVID-19 to GBV in one country to extrapolate global drivers.

  • Limited consideration of differences in the prevalence of GBV and in access to interventions prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Draw on local or country-level secondary data if possible and consider building models and presenting estimates of country-specific scenarios, or focusing on regional estimates from similar income group classifications.

  • Be transparent about and acknowledge the limitations of applying estimates from one country to other contexts.

  • Acknowledge the limitations of country-level models which can obscure subnational effects of COVID-19 on GBV.

(3)Not accounting for changes and adaptations in service provision during COVID-19
  • Assuming complete service disruption of GBV-related prevention and response due to COVID-19 in all settings.

  • Only modelling one lockdown scenario for service disruptions.

  • Acknowledge and account for changes in service delivery innovation and adaptation, for example, remote or virtual services and social distancing precautions.

  • Acknowledge and account for changes in funding for GBV prevention and response (both increases and decreases), or mention these uncertainties or lack of reliable data as limitations.

  • Acknowledge which populations and locations may not benefit from remote service delivery or may be most impacted by changes in service provision.

(4)Unclear definitions of GBV and sourcing of estimates
  • Lack of clarity in GBV indicator definitions.

  • Lack of clarity in citations of estimates or assumed changes in GBV.

  • Clearly define each GBV indicator, including if estimates account for ongoing versus new cases (as applicable).

  • Cite all sources for relevant GBV estimates, or clearly state when figures are not evidence derived.

(5)Inflexible linear model of change over time, without accounting for margins of uncertainty
  • Modelling GBV over the long term (eg, 10 years) without accounting for macrotrends over time.

  • Modelling impacts of COVID-19 without accounting for changes over time in severity of the pandemic or restrictions.

  • No CIs, error margins, sensitivity checks or other tests of uncertainty.

  • Account for macrotrends for GBV—where applicable—or acknowledge uncertainty in long-term estimates.

  • Provide estimates with CIs, including those to account for low-medium-high severity of COVID-19 or lockdowns.

  • *Critiques are based on United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates of intimate partner violence (IPV) and child marriage. We use ‘GBV’ as an umbrella term that includes IPV and child marriage.

  • GDP, gross domestic product.