Women’s Human Rights in the Blind Spot amid deadly COVID-19

An article by HWPL on Human Rights.

Key points:

  • Women Rights
  • Covid-19

In July, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) held a panel discussion of the UN Human Rights Council on the subject of ‘COVID-19 and Women’s Rights‘. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, measures such as quarantines, school closures and other movement restrictions were taken, but it was pointed out that these measures have contributed to the sharp increase in the rates of violence against women. 

According to a June article on UN Women’s site, “Close to 50 percent of women are reporting a correlation between COVID-19 and increased violence, linked directly to the restrictions of movement and economic strain on families,” said Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation (MWCPA), Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, in a joint press release with FWCC, Medical Services Pacific and the UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office. “The domestic violence being reported is serious – close to three-quarters of women reported physical violence, including some extremely serious forms of violence, such as being punched, kicked and hit by stones and timber.” 

Human Rights

In Samoa, there has been a 150 percent increase in helpline calls compared to the same time last year. And in Tonga, an average of 8 domestic violence incidents was reported daily to the Women and Children Crisis Centre during the first 15 days of lockdown by COVID-19. The women’s crisis center in Tonga sought to track the impact of the lockdown on survivors, recording a 54 percent increase in the number of cases during that period.

According to AFP news, 18 women were killed by their spouses or ex-spouse for 20 days after quarantine in Argentina. Reports of domestic violence have increased by nearly 40 percent. In Mexico, the lockdown increased the number of misogynistic killings by 7.1 percent from the beginning of this year to March, compared to the same period of last year. The percentage of women and children who escaped from domestic violence and came to shelter has also jumped by 50 percent. Since COVID-19 pandemic began, helpline calls in Singapore and Cyprus have increased by more than 30 percent. The United States also saw the increasing number of victims contacted via text or telephone calls according to National Domestic Violence Hotline reports.

In February and March, in South Korea, two women in their 60s and 40s fell to death from the high grounds of building. The incidents occurred in mid-February when it was revealed that Shincheonji Church, one of the minority denominations, was at the center of the COVID-19 spread. Although both women were tested negative in the COVID-19 test, they were persecuted by their families for attending Shincheonji Church. At the time, a church official in Shincheonji said, “We are investigating whether the death from a fall was caused by domestic violence or if they killed themselves while trying to avoid violence.”

In the Pandemic situation, the controversy was raised that behind the deaths of two women there was a so-called ‘making a scapegoat’ that blamed Shincheonji, a minority denomination, for the outbreak of COVID-19. On August, the Coalition of Caribbean Leaders for Peace (CCLP) consisting of the former and current leaders in the Caribbean including the former president of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sent a joint letter to South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. In the letter, they said, “the governments, even in response to the urgency of the pandemic, must take responsibility for the protection of human rights regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.”

Last April, Secretary-General of UN, António Guterres said, “The pandemic has also led to a horrifying increase in violence against women. Nearly one in five women worldwide has experienced violence in the past year. Many of these women are now trapped at home with their abusers, struggling to access services that are suffering from cuts and restrictions.” At the same time, he appealed for an end to all forms of violence and urged governments to address the “surge of global domestic violence” through preventive and remedial measures in their national response plans.


1) 44th session of the Human Rights Council (OHCHR), Panel 2: COVID-19 and women’s rights: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session44/_layouts/15/WopiFrame.aspx?sourcedoc=/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session44/Documents/CNwomenpanel2COVID.docx&action=default&DefaultItemOpen=1

2) a June article on UN Women’s site: https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/6/feature-pacific-crisis-centres-respond-to-covid-19-amid-natural-disasters

3) An article about domestic violence cases in the world: http://m.segye.com/view/20200422517184

4) An article about women’s rights after pandemic: http://news.khan.co.kr/kh_news/khan_art_view.html?artid=202008011423001&code=970100

5) An article about violence against women in UN Women’s site: https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/5/press-release-the-shadow-pandemic-of-violence-against-women-during-covid-19

6) A blog posting regarding death of a women of Shincheonji Church: https://blog.naver.com/ssh8665/221827956054

7) UN Secretary-General’s policy brief: The impact of COVID-19 on women: https://interactive.unwomen.org/multimedia/explainer/covid19/en/index.html?gclid=Cj0KCQjw4f35BRDBARIsAPePBHz23AL82-NELkNuqctAS-CEtGidHGHG0dlUU7BNeSAKUjE2u5qj0NcaAiJgEALw_wcB

8) Secretary-General António Guterres speaking at a meeting: https://www.un.org/en/un-coronavirus-communications-team/put-women-and-girls-centre-efforts-recover-covid-19