UNITED Nations Secretary General António Guterres says women and girls are bearing the greatest impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic as the world continues to fail to address “the most pervasive human rights violation of all, gender inequality”.

Addressing the 46th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council Monday, Guterres argued that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated entrenched discrimination against women and girls and charged that, “the crisis has a woman’s face”.

“Most essential front-line workers are women — many from racially and ethnically marginalised groups and at the bottom of the economic ladder. Most of the increased burden of care in the home is taken on by women.

“Violence against women and girls in all forms has skyrocketed, from online abuse to domestic violence, trafficking, sexual exploitation and child marriage. Women have suffered higher job losses and been pushed into poverty in greater numbers,” said Guterres.

He argued that COVID-19 has added to the already fragile socio-economic conditions of women due to lower incomes, the wage gap, and a lifetime of less access to opportunities, resources and protections.

“None of this happened by accident. It is the result of generations of exclusion. It comes down to a question of power. A male-dominated world and a male-dominated culture will yield male-dominated results.

“At the same time, the COVID-19 response has highlighted the power and effectiveness of women’s leadership. The lives of women are perhaps one of the most accurate barometers of the health of society as a whole. How a society treats half its own population is a significant indicator of how it will treat others. Our rights are inextricably bound.”

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