Global Health Womens Rights

U.N. Women Calls Attention to Shadow Pandemic of Domestic Violence, Economic Insecurity

As gender-based violence and job loss become growing concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the executive director of U.N. Women highlights the struggles faced by women during this time.

In a statement released earlier this year, U.N. Women reported rising numbers of calls to domestic violence helplines and shelters worldwide during the pandemic. Alongside this, government authorities and women’s rights activists have seen an increase in reports of domestic violence.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of U.N. Women, points out the gender lens of the coronavirus pandemic. “One of the worrying factors…is the shadow pandemic of the violence against women. Because in order to protect people from infection, people have had to shelter in and be locked in with their abusers. This has given us a bigger problem of how we intervene to save women in an abusive situation,” she said.

With over 243 million women and girls subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner in the last year, Mlambo-Ngcuka stresses that services supporting and protecting victims of domestic abuse must remain open as essential services during the lockdown. She also believes abusers must be removed from homes in order to prevent victims from having to move around to find safety.

U.N. Women has been working in tandem with several organizations to end gender-based violence, including the World Health Organization. However, they have faced challenges with President Trump’s withdrawal of funding from the organization. “We need international institutions more than ever before. We need global solidarity. In the context of the virus, a virus anywhere is a virus everywhere … It means that the WHO will have lesser resources to support the countries that are struggling … All of that means that the fight against the virus is even more complex and more difficult,” she said.

Not only has the pandemic fostered an increase in gender-based violence, but women worldwide are also facing the challenges of job loss. With many women working in the informal sector, they are left without savings, insurance, and enforceable contracts, according to Mlambo-Ngcuka. In addition to their work on gender-based violence, U.N. Women is pushing for governments to provide a clear path of assistance for women in order to prevent economic setbacks.

Sources: U.N. Women 4/6/20; CNBC 7/24/20