Illustration of women walking

Secretary-General's Message - 2021

Violence against women and girls continues to be the most pervasive and pressing human rights issue in the world today. It is both an abhorrent crime and a public health emergency, with far-reaching consequences for millions of women and girls in every corner of the globe.

The latest figures from UN Women confirm that during the COVID-19 pandemic, levels of violence against women and girls have increased. Across 13 countries, almost half of all women reported that they or a woman they know began to experience gender-based violence during the pandemic. Almost a quarter of women reported that household conflicts had become more frequent. A similar proportion said they felt less safe at home.

Violence in any part of society affects us all. From the scars on the next generation to the weakening of the social fabric. We can draw a straight line between violence against women, civil oppression and violent conflict. From rape and sexual slavery used as tools of war, to the thread of misogyny that runs through violent extremism.

But violence against women is not inevitable. The right policies and programmes bring results. That means comprehensive, long-term strategies that tackle the root causes of violence, protect the rights of women and girls, and promote strong and autonomous women’s rights movements.

This is the model that the United Nations has built through its partnership with the European Union, the Spotlight Initiative.

Last year, in partner countries, we saw a 22 percent increase in prosecution of perpetrators. Eighty-four laws and policies were passed or strengthened. And more than 650,000 women and girls were able to access gender-based violence services, despite restrictions related to the pandemic.

Change is possible.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts so that together, we can eliminate violence against women and girls by 2030.

Violence in any part of society affects us all. From the scars on the next generation to the weakening of the social fabric.

António Guterres

COVID-19 and violence against women

End gender-based violence in Iraq. Photo: UNFPA Iraq
12 June 2020 | COVID-19 Response

UN supporting ‘trapped’ domestic violence victims during the pandemic

The United Nations is working with Governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against them a key part of their national response plans. Unique solutions are emerging.  In some European countries, pharmacies and supermarkets have become “go-to” places where the utterance of a code word (“MASK 19”) signals an urgent cry for help.

Secretary-General António Guterres speaking at a meeting. UN Photo/Jean-Marc
9 April 2020 | COVID-19 Response

Put women and girls at the centre of efforts to recover from COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone, everywhere. But the pandemic is having devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls. We are launching a report that shows how COVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights – and recommends ways to put women’s leadership and contributions at the heart of resilience and recovery.  

Secretary-General António Guterres briefs reporters. UN Photo/Mark Garten
5 April 2020 | COVID-19 Response

Violence against women is a key part of national response plans for COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold human suffering and economic devastation around the world. I recently called for an immediate global ceasefire to focus on our shared struggle to overcome the pandemic. I appealed for an end to violence everywhere, now. But violence is not confined to the battlefield. For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest. In their own homes.