Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres has made a global appeal to governments to recognise women’s rights and freedoms as “essential” for “strong, resilient societies.”
The Portuguese politician and diplomat, who has been in the role of Secretary-General since January 2017, spoke on Sunday night in a video released in multiple languages.
“Violence is not confined to the battlefield,” he said. “For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest — in their own homes.”
“Over the past weeks as economic and social pressures and fears have grown, we have seen a horrifying surge in domestic violence.”
Guterres acknowledged that in some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled.
“Some domestic violence shelters are closed. Others are full,” he said.
He urged all governments to make the “prevention and redress of violence against women” a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.
He also called for an increase in online services and civil social organisations, a call for governments to declare shelters as essential services and to create safe ways for women to seek support without altering they abusers.
Last week, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund Dr Natalia Kanem, released a statement, announcing UNFPA’s efforts to “ensure women have access to sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services.”
Several countries have reported a spike in calls to national domestic abuse hotlines, including India, China, Malaysia and France. In the UK, the BBC reported a 25% increase in the volume of online requests for assistance from National Domestic Abuse helpline. The New York Times reported that soon after Italy went into lockdown over four weeks ago, domestic violence shelters were flooded, then incapacitated.
Overnight, BBC TV presenter Victoria Derbyshire had the UK’s national domestic abuse helpline scrolled on the back of her left hand, which viewers could see when she rested her clenched hand on her chin while she was on air.
Derbyshire, who has been with BBC since 2015, also tweeted a photo of the back of her hand, with a reminder that the helpline is open 24/7. She told CNNshe’d “left it on my skin in case it could help any of the millions watching after 9 a.m. on BBC 1.”
“Some [women] will be trapped with a violent perpetrator in self-isolation or partial lockdown and it’s even more vital to get the helpline number out there,” she said.
IN AUSTRALIA: If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000.
If you need help and advice, call 1800Respect on 1800 737 732, Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.