Monday, April 20, 2020

UN Issues Statement on Ensuring Women's Human Rights During COVID-19 pandemic

April 20, 2019

Today, the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women released a statement providing guidance on state human rights obligations to ensure women's human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In issuing the statement, Working Group Chair, Meskerem Geset Techane cautioned that “Measures to mitigate the risks to health and life posed by COVID-19 must consider the specific risks faced by women and girls, based on factors such as their sex, gender, age, disability, ethnic origin, and immigration or residence status among others.”  Otherwise, many different forms of discrimination they already face would be exacerbated.

Among the factors that states should consider are: "The dramatic increase in women’s caregiving responsibilities, the rise in what was already an epidemic of sexual and domestic violence, the continued feminization of poverty, [and] the proliferation of barriers to healthcare, especially pregnancy-related healthcare." The statement noted that women are disproportionately impacted from social and economic shocks because of their disproportionate representation in "precarious, informal, poorly paid work, including domestic work."

The statement specifically warned against responses to COVID-19 that unnecessarily violate the reproductive rights and endanger the health of pregnant people , noting that in some countries:

the human rights of women are being violated during and after pregnancy and childbirth in an attempt to allegedly expedite the process or prevent contagion (e.g. cesarean sections and forceps delivery performed without medical indication, denial of epidural, prohibition of partner’s presence, and separation of newborns from mothers). Some governments are creating new barriers to access to abortion services, by deeming it a non-essential medical procedure.

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