UN chief calls for domestic violence ‘ceasefire’ amid ‘horrifying global surge’

By UN News Team & additional notes by HICGI News Agency

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is calling for measures to address a “horrifying global surge in domestic violence” directed towards women and girls, linked to lockdowns imposed by governments responding to the COVID-19 pandemic: 

UN Chief says Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes.

Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world.

I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.

Check out Twit video on https://twitter.com/antonioguterres/status/1246973397759819776

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director in a statement published on UN Women website titled “Violence against women and girls: the shadow pandemic” says;

With 90 countries in lockdown, four billion people are now sheltering at home from the global contagion of COVID-19. It’s a protective measure, but it brings another deadly danger. We see a shadow pandemic growing, of violence against women.

As more countries report infection and lockdown, more domestic violence helplines and shelters across the world are reporting rising calls for help. In Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom , and the United States , government authorities, women’s rights activists and civil society partners have flagged increasing reports of domestic violence during the crisis, and heightened demand for emergency shelter . Helplines in Singapore and Cyprus have registered an increase in calls by more than 30 per cent . In Australia, 40 per cent of frontline workers in a New South Wales survey reported increased requests for help with violence that was escalating in intensity.

Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19 – UN chief video message

Confinement is fostering the tension and strain created by security, health, and money worries.And it is increasing isolation for women with violent partners, separating them from the people and resources that can best help them. It’s a perfect storm for controlling, violent behaviour behind closed doors. And in parallel, as health systems are stretching to breaking point, domestic violence shelters are also reaching capacity, a service deficit made worse when centres are repurposed for additional COVID-response.

Even before COVID-19 existed, domestic violence was already one of the greatest human rights violations. In the previous 12 months, 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, this number is likely to grow with multiple impacts on women’s wellbeing, their sexual and reproductive health, their mental health, and their ability to participate and lead in the recovery of our societies and economy.

Wide under-reporting of domestic and other forms of violence has previously made response and data gathering a challenge, with less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seeking help of any sort or reporting the crime. Less than 10 per cent of those women seeking help go to the police. The current circumstances make reporting even harder, including limitations on women’s and girls’ access to phones and helplines and disrupted public services like police, justice and social services. These disruptions may also be compromising the care and support that survivors need, like clinical management of rape, and mental health and psycho-social support. They also fuel impunity for the perpetrators. In many countries the law is not on women’s side; 1 in 4 countries have no laws specifically protecting women from domestic violence.

If not dealt with, this shadow pandemic will also add to the economic impact of COVID-19. The global cost of violence against women had previously been estimated at approximately USD 1.5 trillion. That figure can only be rising as violence increases now, and continues in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The increase in violence against women must be dealt with urgently with measures embedded in economic support and stimulus packages that meet the gravity and scale of the challenge and reflect the needs of women who face multiple forms of discrimination.The Secretary-General has called for all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19. Shelters and helplines for women must be considered an essential service for every country with specific funding and broad efforts made to increase awareness about their availability.

Grassroots and women’s organizations and communities have played a critical role in preventing and responding to previous crises and need to be supported strongly in their current frontline role including with funding that remains in the longer-term. Helplines, psychosocial support and online counselling should be boosted, using technology-based solutions such as SMS, online tools and networks to expand social support, and to reach women with no access to phones or internet. Police and justice services must mobilize to ensure that incidents of violence against women and girls are given high priority with no impunity for perpetrators. The private sector also has an important role to play, sharing information, alerting staff to the facts and the dangers of domestic violence and encouraging positive steps like sharing care responsibilities at home.

COVID-19 is already testing us in ways most of us have never previously experienced, providing emotional and economic shocks that we are struggling to rise above. The violence that is emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic is a mirror and a challenge to our values, our resilience and shared humanity. We must not only survive the coronavirus, but emerge renewed, with women as a powerful force at the centre of recovery.

On Thursday, March 26, 2020 UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia pointed out five things governments can do now;

First, ensure that the needs of female nurses and doctors are integrated into every aspect of the response effort. At a minimum, this means ensuring that menstrual hygiene products such as sanitary pads and tampons are available for female caregivers and frontline responders as part of personal protective equipment. This will ensure that they do not face unnecessary discomforts in already challenging situations. But most importantly, talk to the caregivers and listen to their needs and respond. They deserve all the support we can provide right now, particularly support in terms of much-needed critical medical equipment. 

Second, ensure that hotlines and services for all victims of domestic abuse are considered “essential services“ and are kept open and law enforcement is sensitized to the need to be responsive to calls from victims. Follow the example of Quebec and Ontario, which have included shelters for women survivors in the list of essential services. This will ensure that the pandemic does not inadvertently lead to more trauma, injury and deaths during the quarantine period, given the high proportion of violent deaths of women perpetrated by intimate partners. 

Third, bailout and stimulus packages must include social protection measures that reflect an understanding of women’s special circumstances and recognition of the care economy. This means ensuring health insurance benefits for those most in need and paid and/or sick leave for those unable to come to work because they are taking care of children or elders at home. 

For informal sector employees, who constitute the vast majority of the female labour force in developing economies, special efforts should be made to deliver compensatory payments. Identifying those informal sector workers will be a challenge and will need to take account of a country’s particular circumstances, but it is worth the effort to ensure more equity in outcomes.

Fourth, leaders must find a way to include women in response and recovery decision-making. Whether at the local, municipal or national level, bringing the voices of women into decision-making will lead to better outcomes; we know from many settings that diversity of views will enrich a final decision. Alongside this, policy-makers should leverage the capacities of women’s organizations. Reaching out to enlist women’s groups will help ensure a more robust community response as their considerable networks can be leveraged to disseminate and amplify social distancing messaging. The Ebola response benefited from the involvement of women’s groups, why not this? 

Finally, policy makers must pay attention to what is happening in peoples’’ homes and support an equal sharing of the burden of care between women and men. There is a great opportunity to “unstereotype” the gender roles that play out in households in many parts of the world. One concrete action for governments, particularly for male leaders, is to join our campaign, HeForShe and stay tuned for more information about “HeforShe@home”, whereby we enlist men and boys to ensure that they are doing their fair share at home and alleviating some of the care burdens that fall disproportionately on women.

These actions and more are urgent. Building in the needs of women offers an opportunity for us to “build back better”.

What better tribute to our shared humanity than to implement policy actions that build a more equal world? 

António Guterres Secretary-General’s remarks on COVID-19 crisis

We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives. 

A global recession – perhaps of record dimensions – is a near certainty.  

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has just reported that workers around the world could lose as much as 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars in income by the end of this year. 

This is, above all, a human crisis that calls for solidarity.   

Our human family is stressed and the social fabric is being torn.  People are suffering, sick and scared.  

Current responses at the country level will not address the global scale and complexity of the crisis. 

This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies.   We must recognize that the poorest and most vulnerable — especially women — will be the hardest hit. 

I welcome the decision by G20 leaders to convene an emergency summit next week to respond to the epic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic – and I look forward to taking part. 

My central message is clear:  We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.  We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times. 

The creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis – and the magnitude of the response must match its scale. 
Our world faces a common enemy.  We are at war with a virus. 

COVID-19 is killing people, as well as attacking the real economy at its core – trade, supply chains, businesses, jobs.  Entire countries and cities are in lockdown.  Borders are closing.  Companies are struggling to stay in business and families are simply struggling to stay afloat. 
 
But in managing this crisis, we also have a unique opportunity.  

Done right, we can steer the recovery toward a more sustainable and inclusive path.  But poorly coordinated policies risk locking in — or even worsening — already unsustainable inequalities, reversing hard-won development gains and poverty reduction. 

I call on world leaders to come together and offer an urgent and coordinated response to this global crisis. 

I see three critical areas for action: 

FIRST, TACKLING THE HEALTH EMERGENCY.

Many countries have exceeded the capacity to care for even mild cases in dedicated health facilities, with many unable to respond to the enormous needs of the elderly. 

Even in the wealthiest countries, we see health systems buckling under pressure. 

Health spending must be scaled up right away to meet urgent needs and the surge in demand — expanding testing, bolstering facilities, supporting health care workers, and ensuring adequate supplies – with full respect for human rights and without stigma. 

It has been proven that the virus can be contained.  It must be contained.  

If we let the virus spread like wildfire – especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world — it would kill millions of people.  

And we need to immediately move away from a situation where each country is undertaking its own health strategies to one that ensures, in full transparency, a coordinated global response, including helping countries that are less prepared to tackle the crisis. 

Governments must give the strongest support to the multilateral effort to fight the virus, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), whose appeals must be fully met. 

The health catastrophe makes clear that we are only as strong as the weakest health system.  

Global solidarity is not only a moral imperative, it is in everyone’s interests. 

SECOND, WE MUST FOCUS ON THE SOCIAL IMPACT AND THE ECONOMIC RESPONSE AND RECOVERY. 

Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, injecting capital in the financial sector alone is not the answer.  This is not a banking crisis – and indeed, banks must be part of the solution.  

And it is not an ordinary shock in supply and demand; it is a shock to society as a whole. 

The liquidity of the financial system must be guaranteed, and  banks must use their resilience to support their customers.     

But let’s not forget this is essentially a human crisis.  

Most fundamentally, we need to focus on people — low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises and the most vulnerable. 

And that means wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss. 

And that also means designing fiscal and monetary responses to ensure that the burden does not fall on those who can least afford it.  

The recovery must not come on the backs of the poorest – and we cannot create a legion of new poor. 

We need to get resources directly in the hands of people.  A number of countries are taking up social protection initiatives such as cash transfers and universal income.  

We need to take it to the next level to ensure support reaches those entirely dependent on the informal economy and countries less able to respond. 

Remittances are a lifeline in the developing world – especially now.  Countries have already committed to reduce remittance fees to 3 percent, much below the current average levels.  The crisis requires us to go further, getting as close to zero as possible. 

In addition, G20 leaders have taken steps to protect their own citizens and economies by waiving interest payments.  We must apply that same logic to the most vulnerable countries in our global village and alleviate their debt burden.  

Across the board, we need a commitment to ensure adequate financial facilities to support countries in difficulties.  The IMF, the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions play a key role. The private sector is essential to seeking and creating investment opportunities and protecting jobs. 

And we must refrain from the temptation of resorting to protectionism.  This is the time to dismantle trade barriers and re-establish supply chains. 

Looking at the broader picture, disruptions to society are having a profound impact. 

We must address the effects of this crisis on women.  The world’s women are disproportionally carrying the burden at home and in the wider economy. 

Children are also paying a heavy price.  More than 800 million children are out of school right now — many of whom rely on school to provide their only meal.  We must ensure that all children have access to food and equal access to learning – bridging the digital divide and reducing the costs of connectivity. 

As people’s lives are disrupted, isolated and upturned, we must prevent this pandemic from turning into a crisis of mental health.  Young people will be most at risk. 

The world needs to keep going with core support to programmes for the most vulnerable, including through UN-coordinated humanitarian and refugee response plans.  Humanitarian needs must not be sacrificed.  

THIRD, AND FINALLY, WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO “RECOVER BETTER”. 

The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated clearly that countries with robust social protection systems suffered the least and recovered most quickly from its impact. 

We must ensure that lessons are learned and that this crisis provides a watershed moment for health emergency preparedness and for investment in critical 21st century public services and the effective delivery of global public goods. 

We have a framework for action – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  We must keep our promises for people and planet. 

The United Nations – and our global network of country offices — will support all governments to ensure that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis.   

That is the logic of the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

More than ever before, we need solidarity, hope and the political will to see this crisis through together. 

Thank you, concluded UN Chief.

It should be noted that due the pandemic the UN Commission on Status on Women 64 which was scheduled for March this year was canceled. This 11 days annual gathering brings together thousands of outstanding women at UN headquarters in New York from Governments and NGOs like Heal The Planet Global Organisation – HTP in Special Consultative Status with United Nations.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Irene Robinah Birabwa Kiwanuka says:

    Looks like we are back to square one;as all that has been put into place for women and the girl child seem to have been disrupted. Ironically one finds that mostly its the ministers ‘ s wives,the renown women in the developing countries who go to attend those International meetings /conferences about women;where they act like it was a fashion show! But what’s done on return home? NOTHING. Then they wait for another conference. Dear people at the UN higher offices,do us a favour, make some affirmative action where typical village women could be allowed to attend those conferences. Example there about 130 districts in Uganda. If one woman could be invited from sub country with strong evidence that shows,then may be we could have genuine representatives. These woman know a lot about their communities and can ably come up with better solutions which they fail to implement coz of financial handcuffs. We are tired of the top to nowhere policies that never reach the bottom.

    Like

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