COVID-19 a new obstacle to the slow progress of gender equality: UN

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

United Nations, Oct 20 (efe-epa).- The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and deepened social, ethnic and cultural inequalities in all corners of the planet, and gender equality has been no exception, according to “The World’s Women 2020” report published Tuesday by the United Nations.

The study, which has been published every five years since 1990 and this year for the first time solely online, registers the progress achieved worldwide in promoting women’s rights, empowering women and girls, and guaranteeing gender equality.

In the presentation of the document, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Social and Economic Affairs, Liu Zhenmin, emphasized the progress made in the last two decades in areas of education and child marriage, as well as in the reduction of child mortality.

However, he warned that “progress has stalled in other areas, such as women’s labor force participation and unequal distribution of unpaid domestic and care work.”


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected men and women differently. The study highlights that although mortality is higher among men (60 percent), women are more likely to be diagnosed, especially in the workplace, such as in the health sector, where they represent 70 percent of the workers.

At age 80 and older, for every case of COVID-19 among men, there are two cases among women, the report said.

Women face additional challenges such as reduced access to sexual and reproductive health services and increased time spent caregiving.


“Around one third of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, and 18 percent have experienced such violence in the past 12 months,” says the report, which adds that intimate partner violence continues to be the most common form of violence against women, both in developed and developing countries.

However, the UN reports that between 2012 and 2019, women’s acceptance of being beaten by their partners has decreased in about 75 percent of the countries where there is data in this regard.

The document also points out that in “a handful of countries” there has been a decrease in violence by intimate partners since 2005, although it adds that globally, an average of 137 women are killed each day by a member of their own family .

The report also notes ??that female genital mutilation is “becoming less common in some countries and subregions where the practice is prevalent.”

Still, the UN estimates that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to genital mutilation in countries across Africa and the Middle East.

In Northern Africa, Western Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, less than 50 percent of countries have passed anti-domestic violence laws.

Likewise, the report says that COVID-19 lockdowns decreed across the globe have led to many women and girls being “isolated in unsafe environments where they are at heightened risk of experiencing intimate partner violence.”


“The World’s Women 2020” trends and statistics emphasizes that “women need to have a more prominent role in power and decision-making,” where access “has been restricted and progress has been slow.”

Women’s representation in parliament has doubled worldwide from approximately 11 percent in 1995 to 25 percent today, “mainly as a result of the adoption of gender quotas and milestones achieved in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean,” and the number of women cabinet ministers has quadrupled in the last quarter of a century, now representing a total of 22 percent of governments.

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