"For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest. In their own homes," says UN chief, urging protection of women during lockdown. (Photo: AFP)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged governments to include the protection of women in their response to the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic.
Reports of domestic violence have surged globally in the wake of massive lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the disease.
"Violence is not confined to the battlefield," said Guterres in a statement and video released in multiple languages, days after his call for a worldwide ceasefire in the wake of the outbreak.
"For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest. In their own homes," he said.
Describing the rise in domestic violence as "horrifying," he urged all governments "to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19."
India reported double the usual number of domestic abuse cases in the first week of nationwide movement restrictions, according to the country's National Commission for Women.
Cases in France rose by a third in the week after that country's lockdown, authorities said, while Australia reported a 75 percent increase in internet searches relating to support for domestic violence victims.
Guterres called for setting up emergency warning systems in pharmacies and groceries, and for safe ways "for women to seek support, without alerting their abusers."
"Together, we can and must prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people's homes, as we work to beat COVID-19," he said, as he called "for peace at home -- and in homes -- around the world."