The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19

The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19

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The issue

One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation.

Before the pandemic 243 million women and girls, aged 15-49 experienced sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner in the past year. Since the pandemic, violence against women, especially domestic violence has intensified.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified.

This is the Shadow Pandemic growing amidst the COVID-19 crisis and we need a global collective effort to stop it. As COVID-19 cases continue to strain health services, essential services, such as domestic violence shelters and helplines, have reached capacity. More needs to be done to prioritize addressing violence against women in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

Everyone has a role to play.

UN Women is providing up-to-date information and supporting vital programmes to fight the Shadow Pandemic of violence against women during COVID-19.

Feature: The Shadow Pandemic Campaign

Need help?

UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, today launched the Shadow Pandemic public awareness campaign, focusing on the global increase in domestic violence amid the COVID-19 health crisis. The Shadow Pandemic public service announcement is a sixty-second film narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Kate Winslet, who has championed many humanitarian causes. The video highlights the alarming upsurge in domestic violence during COVID-19 and delivers a vital message urging people to act to support women if they know or suspect someone is experiencing violence. See full press release ►

Nicole Kidman: "Play your role in ending violence against women"

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and Academy-Award winning actor Nicole Kidman raises awareness on ending violence against women during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fast facts

  • Globally, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner
  • Emerging data shows an increase in calls to domestic violence helplines in many countries since the outbreak of COVID-19.
  • Sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women continue to occur on streets, in public spaces and online.
  • Survivors have limited information and awareness about available services and limited access to support services.
  • In some countries, resources and efforts have been diverted from violence against women response to immediate COVID-19 relief.

Learn more►

Learn and share

Our work

UN Women focuses on six areas in its COVID-19 response:

During COVID-19, UN Women is working on prevention of violence and access to essential services, such as health, justice and policing, social services, helplines and coordination of these services, to provide support to those who have experienced and/or witnessed violence.

Lockdowns and stress exacerbated violence against women and girls. Across the region, women have been working to mitigate this impact.
Women confront pandemic-related violence against women across Europe and Central Asia
Across the region, women have been working to mitigate an increase in gender-based violence.
Mubera Hodžić Lemeš, safe house manager of Foundation for Local Democracy, at her office. Photo: Private archive
"Violence increased during the coronavirus pandemic, women and girls need psychological support"
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a campaign is raising awareness on women frontline responders.
Dina Smailova holds a bouquet with the sign “Don’t keep silent”. The money from the sales of these bouquets were donated to her fund. Photo: Almat Mukhamedzhanov
From where I stand: “The fact that domestic violence is not a criminal offence in Kazakhstan is hurting women during COVID-19 crisis”
In Kazakhstan, well-known activist points to an alarming increase in domestic violence cases.
UN Women COVID-19 campaign against domestic violence in Kosovo reaches over 1 million
UN Women COVID-19 campaign against domestic violence in Kosovo reaches over 1 million
In Kosovo[1], a series of powerful videos from influencers and leaders in government empowers survivors of domestic violence.
Stefan Petrovski, youth ambassador within the regional programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds”. Credit: Personal archive.
In the words of Stefan Petrovski: “We need to raise awareness and prevent violence against trans men and women”
A youth ambassador in Serbia talks about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on queer people.
Nargiza Eshtaeva is a phycologist and activist, and head of crisis center Aruulan. Photo: Kubanych Moldokulov
From where I stand: “People weren’t prepared to stay home for so long and many are panicked, anxious and stressed”
Nargiza Eshtaeva from Kyrgyzstan provides much-needed psychological consultations.



[1] All references to Kosovo on this website shall be understood to be in full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).