Women, Peace & Security

Why women’s rights must be central to the UN Security Council’s response to COVID-19

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An article written by the NGO Working Group on WPS explain’s why the UN Security Council must put an emphasis on women’s rights in their response to COVID-19.

Key points are:

  • 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.
  • Recent research has found that the countries whose populations face the highest risk of an outbreak have six times lower access to healthcare, which will translate into devastating impacts on the marginalized populations within them. Many of these countries are situations on the UN Security Council’s agenda; Somalia, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Iraq, for instance, are some of the countries least prepared to cope with the impact of the pandemic.
  • Despite building over several decades a robust normative framework to define women’s human rights and the Women, Peace and Security agenda, women still remain excluded from decision-making processes that determine their future. For example, despite women constituting the majority of health and care workers, a recent report showed that more than 70% of CEOs in global organizations active in health are male, and just 5% are women from low- and middle-income countries, a staggering statistic.

Given this information the NGO Working Group on WPS has made the following recommendations to the UN Security Council as they develop their response to the pandemic:

  • Require women’s full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership;
  • Require rights-based and age-, gender-, and disability-sensitive pandemic responses;
  • Prevent and respond to gender-based violence;
  • Protect civilians and ensure principled humanitarian access to all people in need;
  • Maintain essential health services;
  • Defend civil society space; and
  • Promote community engagement and leadership.

Read the full article here.