Advocacy statements

The Rights of Women and Covid-19

  • Date / 2020
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights

International Humanist and Ethical Union

45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (14 September – 2 October 2020)

ID with Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery



We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report and for highlighting the particularly negative impact of COVID-19 on certain groups of people, including women.

As a result of the pandemic, 47 million women and girls will fall below the poverty line, leaving them extraordinarily vulnerable to practices such as trafficking, debt bondage, forced labour, forced marriage and other contemporary forms of slavery.

Women are vastly over represented in precarious job sectors, and as pointed out by the Special Rapporteur, the majority of the labour in the informal economy is performed by women.

The scenes of Ethiopian migrant domestic workers being fired and dumped outside their country’s consulate in Beirut in June this year, is a stark example of the extreme vulnerability of women working in domestic and bonded labour.

In Africa, measures to combat the pandemic have forced over 4 million girls out of education. This could increase the risk of child marriage, gender-based violence and exploitation.

These structural inequalities are magnified for those who are from already marginalised groups, such as undocumented migrants, Dalit women, women of colour, disabled women, older women, and members of the LGBTI community.

A return to business as usual is not good enough, we must use the opportunity to redress all the pre-existing injustices which have been revealed by the patently unequal way many women have suffered in this pandemic and the fuelling of slavery like practices.

States must include in their COVID-19 financial relief packages compensation for women’s work, particularly for those from marginalised communities, and ensure equal and effective access to justice and remedy.

Suggested academic reference

'The Rights of Women and Covid-19', Humanists International

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