Covid-19 response must address gender-based violence, other rights of women and girls

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“The social and economic stress that Covid-19 pandemic brings upon households places women and girls in vulnerable positions, burdening them with additional domestic responsibilities such as caring for the elderly, ill family members, children and guiding school-going children, besides regular household chores.”

In a telecast address yesterday, the UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador and RENEW patron, Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, drew attention to the risks and additional burden women or girls and children can face during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her Majesty expressed concerns that the Covid-19 pandemic would negatively impact ongoing support, care and access to health services for women and girls.

Experts say stressful household environments fueled by restrictions and quarantine measures imposed as a response to the pandemic, place women and girls at increased risk of gender-based violence, domestic violence, sexual violence and other forms of intimate partner violence. These debilitating conditions warrant the Bhutanese also to recognise the needs of vulnerable women and girls for whom home may not be the safest place, especially for survivors of violence, Her Majesty said.

“We are blessed with a compassionate and selfless King who places the health and safety of His people before His own. His Majesty is working tirelessly to safeguard His people from the Covid-19 pandemic and is personally ensuring that every section of the population is taken care of both at home and abroad.”

Her Majesty said that during this challenging time, individuals and families have to demonstrate solidarity, take care of each other, share responsibilities at home and refrain from activities that expose us to increased risk of exploitation, violence or abuse. That everyone should seek accurate information and strictly abide by norms and follow all prevention measures advocated by health authorities.

Her Majesty urged policymakers to ensure that policies and interventions put in place resonate the needs of vulnerable women, girls and children. “It is crucial that the vulnerable population are protected and supported as the Covid-19 crisis unfolds.”

Lack of essential protection services and social networks can reproduce or perpetuate harmful gender norms, discriminatory practices and inequalities. Her Majesty said this could significantly amplify the impacts of the pandemic.

Her Majesty also urged the health ministry to ensure sexual and reproductive health services as well as maternal, newborn and child health services, health sector response to gender-based violence continue to receive priority throughout the crisis. These essential life-saving services need to be part of the critical response to the crisis.

Her Majesty applauded the leadership demonstrated by the Prime Minister and his team to prepare the nation for the Covid-19 crisis and also commended the efforts of the health ministry, and health service providers, the monastic body, armed forces, desuung, volunteers, and the frontline responders for their dedicated services.

“I am confident that the nation will emerge from this crisis better and stronger than ever, with unwavering blessings of the triple gem and the dynamic Leadership of His Majesty The King”.

In light of the difficult and uncertain times challenged by the worst health, social and economic crisis of the century, Her Majesty offered her prayers and sympathies to individuals, families and communities who are directly or indirectly being affected by the crisis both at home and abroad.

 

Tshering Palden


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