Global surge of domestic violence since coronavirus lockdowns

UN chief calls on governments to step up prosecution of abusers and set up emergency-warning systems in pharmacies.

    Women wear face shields as they sell flowers at a market in Bangkok, Thailand [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]
    Women wear face shields as they sell flowers at a market in Bangkok, Thailand [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a "horrifying global surge" in domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis and urged governments to step up efforts to prevent violence against women.

    "We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19. But they can trap women with abusive partners," Guterres said in a video message posted on Twitter on Sunday. "For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest - in their own homes."

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    In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled, healthcare providers and police are overwhelmed and understaffed, and local support groups are "paralysed" or short of funds, the UN chief said.

    He called on governments worldwide to make sure the prosecution of abusers continues, to set up emergency warning systems in pharmacies and groceries, and declare women's shelters essential services.

    Guterres pressed for safe ways "for women to seek support, without alerting their abusers".

    "Together, we can and must prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people's homes, as we work to beat COVID-19," he said, as he called "for peace at home - and in homes - around the world."

    "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."

    Countries, including Germany, have warned that movement restrictions placed on the public in a bid to prevent the coronavirus from spreading threaten to exacerbate domestic violence.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies