UN Secretary-General António Guterres has decried a “horrifying global surge in domestic violence” against women and girls amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a video message on Sunday evening, Guterres linked the development to economic and social pressures occasioned by stay-at-home orders imposed by governments in response to the pandemic.
“We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19, but they can trap women with abusive partners.
“Over the last weeks as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen horrifying global surge in domestic violence.
“In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled,” he stated.
The UN Chief noted that help might not come for the victims since the police and healthcare providers were already overwhelmed by demands of the pandemic.
He added that “local support groups are paralysed or short of funds”, while some domestic shelters are closed, and others full.
Guterres, therefore, called for an end to violence in homes around the world.
“I recently called for an immediate ceasefire in conflicts around the world to focus on our shared struggle to overcome the pandemic.
“I appealed for an end to violence everywhere now. But violence is not confined to the battlefield.
“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes.
“And so I make a new appeal today for peace at home, and in homes, around the world,” he said.
The Secretary-General urged governments to make prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.
This, he stated, means increasing investments in online services and civil society organisations.
He said it also meant ensuring that judicial systems continue to prosecute abusers, and setting up emergency warning systems in pharmacies and groceries.
“This also means declaring shelters as essential services, and creating safe ways for women to seek support without alerting their abusers.
“Women’s rights and freedoms are essential to strong, resilient societies.
“Together, we can and must prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people’s homes, as we work to beat COVID-19,” Guterres said.