WHO chief urges stop to gender violence amid 'horrifying' global surge in coronavirus figures

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for governments to ensure that judicial systems continue to prosecute abusers

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all governments to adopt measures against the "horrifying global surge in domestic violence", following the lockdowns imposed by authorities around the world to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

"I recently called for an immediate global ceasefire 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," Efe news Guterres as saying in a statement on Sunday.

Appeals for peace in homes across the world

"For many women and girls the threat looms largest where they should be safest. In their homes. And so I make a new appeal today for peace at home - and in homes - around the world.

"We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19. But they can trap women with abusive partners. Over the past weeks as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrific global surge in domestic violence," he added.

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres Wikimedia Commons

The UN said that in some countries, the number of women seeking support from service providers has doubled in the last few days, whereas healthcare workers and police were overwhelmed and understaffed, while local help groups were either paralyzed or lack financial resources.

"Some domestic violence shelters are closed; others are full. I urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19," the UN chief reiterated and added that these plans would mean increased investment in online services and civil society organizations.

Calls on governments ensure actions against abusers

Moreover, Guterres called for governments to ensure that judicial systems continue to prosecute abusers, to set up emergency alert systems in pharmacies and supermarkets, declare shelters as essential services and create safe ways for women to seek support, without alerting their abusers. He also urged governments to avoid releasing prisoners convicted of violence against women in any form.

"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," he concluded.