Women attend a candlelight vigil wearing facemasks.
Women attend a vigil in commemoration of the victims of gender-based violence outside the National Congress in Quito, Ecuador. 25 November, 2021. Photo: UN Women/Johis Alarcón.

Gender-based violence, already a global crisis before the pandemic, has intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19. Lockdowns and other mobility restrictions have left many women trapped with their abusers, isolated from social contact and support networks. Increased economic precarity has further limited many women’s ability to leave abusive situations. COVID-driven economic and social instability will also heighten the risk of child marriage, female genital mutilation and human trafficking. At the same time, the pandemic has exposed women leaders to backlash, leading to threats, abuse and harassment both online and offline. Violence against women leaders can prevent them from carrying out their duties regardless of the position they hold.

What can governments do?

  • Increase resources for shelters, hotlines and other services so that they can meet heightened demand.
  • Protect elected and non-elected women leaders from gender-based violence. Any efforts to protect and combat violence against women in politics must consider women in all their public roles, including women civil servants and experts.
  • Consider the communication needs of older women and women with limited access to ICT –– e.g. by setting up emergency warning systems in pharmacies and grocery stores.
  • Make information and communication channels accessible for women with disabilities.
  • Scale up public awareness campaigns, particularly those targeted at men and boys.
  • Develop and implement measures to address online and ICT facilitated violence.
  • Increase funding to women’s organizations. Evidence shows that the strength of women’s organizations is one of the biggest factors in driving positive EVAW policy changes.
  • Ensure women’s economic independence by enabling access to and control over regular, secure and long-term income.

What is UN Women doing?

  • Providing key data on the impacts of COVID-19 on gender-based violence via Rapid Gender Assessment Surveys (RGA) conducted in 13 countries spanning all regions: Albania, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay, Thailand and Ukraine.
  • Improving access to essential services for survivors, such as shelters and women’s organizations, justice and policing, social services and helplines, including:
  • In partnership with tech companies like Google and Facebook, providing life-saving information to survivors of domestic violence.
  • Driving efforts to prevent violence against women in politics, including the passage of 28 measures across 20 countries.