As COVID-19 exposes the fault lines of gender equality, a strong focus on violence against women at the UN General Assembly

With alarming rise of domestic violence reports during the pandemic lockdowns from millions of women worldwide, UN Women convened today a high-level meeting with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Member States, UN agencies, activists, the private sector and philanthropies. The spotlight was on the urgent need for targeted investments, commitments and innovative new ways of tackling the exponential increase in gender-based violence around the world since the onset of COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, violence against women was already alarmingly high, with nearly one in five women (18 per cent) experiencing violence in the past 12 months at the hands of an intimate male partner. With COVID-19, an increased reporting of domestic violence has surfaced, with a staggering 40 per cent rise in some countries. As the UN Secretary-General called for “peace at home” in April, 146 Member States responded with their strong statement of commitment. In response, in recent months 135 countries have strengthened actions and resources to address violence against women as part of the response to COVID-19, with stronger essential services, such as shelters, helplines and other reporting mechanisms. Yet, much more is needed. Only 48 countries, less than a quarter of those analyzed, are treating violence against women and girls-related services as an integral part of their national and local COVID-19 response plans, with very few adequately funding these measures.

To address the gaps, there is a need to mobilise all actors to address gender-based violence in the context of COVID-19, and to FUND women’s organisations and services, RESPOND by strengthening services to survivors, PREVENT by addressing harmful social norms that normalise violence against women and COLLECT data to inform policies and programmes.

Taking place on the margins of the 75thsession of the UN General Assembly, and ahead of the high-level meeting on 1st October to mark the 25th anniversary of the landmark Beijing Platform for Action, the virtual event, a first of its kind, today brought together different stakeholders , around the urgent issue of gender-based violence in this pandemic world, led by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN Women.

Their call to action was clear: a higher level of ambition is needed to make the necessary policy changes, investments and partnerships to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence.

Speaking in a video message, the UN Secretary-General António Guterreswhile commending the efforts so far, strongly underlined, “We urgently need new thinking and momentum on this critical issue,” he said. “Together, we must tackle male violence that affects everyone and damages everyone. We need to increase accountability and question attitudes and approaches that enable violence. And we must provide resources for women’s civil society organizations on the front lines.”

Research shows that due to the crisis, many women’s organizations, crisis centers, helplines and shelters have had severe funding cuts and are struggling to continue service delivery. For example, a recent survey in the UK indicates that 76 per cent of front-line services for survivors of violence have had to reduce their service delivery due to COVID-19.


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