Why Women’s Rights Must be Central to the UN Security Council’s Response to COVID-19

Authored by: NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security

Categories: Global Public Health
Sub-Categories: COVID-19
Year: 2020
Citation: "Why Women’s Rights Must be Central to the UN Security Council’s Response to COVID-19." NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security. April 8, 2020.

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Executive Summary

As the international community continues to confront the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, it has become clear that many governments and global health institutions are failing to incorporate a gender analysis into their responses to the virus, including in designing public policy and health solutions. Although early evidence suggests that more men than women are dying from the disease, the gendered implications of COVID-19 go much further.

Less than 1% of evidence on outbreaks such as Ebola or the Zika virus analyzed any of their gender dimensions; yet, available analysis demonstrates that women are both more likely to be infected due to their role as primary caregivers or healthcare workers, and less likely to be able to meet their own needs. It is well known that during times of crisis, the rates of documented cases of sexual and gender-based violence increase, which, combined with restrictions to essential services, compound existing risks for women and girls. The crisis will amplify existing gender, racial, economic and political inequalities and impact those most marginalized, including people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expression, and sex characteristics, people with disabilities, the elderly, the poor, and the displaced.

In addition, although specific and proportionate emergency measures may be necessary at certain times to combat the crisis, we are today witnessing an alarming pattern of governments exploiting this public health emergency by imposing restrictions, exercising unlimited executive power, and enacting emergency measures that violate human rights, such as freedom of expression and movement. This also includes curtailing access to essential health services, such as safe abortion and family planning, including in the United States. Any efforts to respond to the pandemic must ensure the protection, respect and fulfillment of all human rights, including the protection of civic space, full participation of civil society and all affected communities, and for human rights defenders to carry out their important work.