The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19

The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19

Campaign | Fast facts | Learn and share | Take action | Our work | Resources

The issue

One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation.

Before the pandemic 243 million women and girls, aged 15-49 experienced sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner in the past year. Since the pandemic, violence against women, especially domestic violence has intensified.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified.

This is the Shadow Pandemic growing amidst the COVID-19 crisis and we need a global collective effort to stop it. As COVID-19 cases continue to strain health services, essential services, such as domestic violence shelters and helplines, have reached capacity. More needs to be done to prioritize addressing violence against women in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

Everyone has a role to play.

UN Women is providing up-to-date information and supporting vital programmes to fight the Shadow Pandemic of violence against women during COVID-19.

Feature: The Shadow Pandemic Campaign

Need help?

UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, today launched the Shadow Pandemic public awareness campaign, focusing on the global increase in domestic violence amid the COVID-19 health crisis. The Shadow Pandemic public service announcement is a sixty-second film narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Kate Winslet, who has championed many humanitarian causes. The video highlights the alarming upsurge in domestic violence during COVID-19 and delivers a vital message urging people to act to support women if they know or suspect someone is experiencing violence. See full press release ►


Nicole Kidman: "Play your role in ending violence against women"
How you can combat domestic violence during COVID-19

Fast facts

  • Globally, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner
  • Emerging data shows an increase in calls to domestic violence helplines in many countries since the outbreak of COVID-19.
  • Sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women continue to occur on streets, in public spaces and online.
  • Survivors have limited information and awareness about available services and limited access to support services.
  • In some countries, resources and efforts have been diverted from violence against women response to immediate COVID-19 relief.

Learn more►

Learn and share

Our work

UN Women focuses on six areas in its COVID-19 response:

During COVID-19, UN Women is working on prevention of violence and access to essential services, such as health, justice and policing, social services, helplines and coordination of these services, to provide support to those who have experienced and/or witnessed violence.

Simret Tesfaye poses for a photo.  Photo:  UN Women/Bethlehem Negash
“Due to COVID-19 people were not going to the police”
In Ethiopia, UN Women- supported transitional shelter offers critical services to survivors
Natalia Klinsky Amelunge. Photo courtesy of Natalia Klinsky Amelunge
"What we are going through right now is a life lesson for everyone."
In Bolivia, a campaign is focusing on prevention of violence against women
Emanuela Paul is the Rethinking Power Program Coordinator with Beyond Borders/Depase Fwontyè yo. Photo Courtesy of Beyond Borders
As Haiti battles COVID-19, services to protect women and girls with disabilities are critical
In Haiti, the UN Trust Fund supports grassroots organizations adapt their community outreach
COVID-19 affected face-to-face service provision for crisis centres across the Pacific, with many using phone and online mediums to continue providing critical support to survivors of violence against women and girls. Photo credit: UN Women/ Trisha Toangwera .
Across the Pacific, crisis centres respond to COVID-19 amid natural disasters
In Fiji and Tonga, UN Women supports crisis centres to shift to online counselling and promote hotline numbers
Pioneering effort to protect women and children in quarantine centres in Viet Nam
The Government of Viet Nam, UNICEF and UN Women distributed guidelines to 392 quarantine centres during COVID-19
In Haiti, UN Trust Fund Grantee Beyond Borders has adapted their work to spread awareness on COVID-19 and distribute face masks to protect people in public spaces. Photo: Beyond Borders.
On the front lines of COVID-19, women’s organizations provide vital services as first responders
UN Trust Fund scales up support to grassroot organizations to provide free phone lines, online legal and psychosocial support.