Sophie warns about rise in sexual violence during Covid-19 pandemic

The Countess of Wessex has told the United Nations (UN) that since the Covid-19 pandemic, sexual violence in the home or during conflicts is likely to have “risen substantially”.

In an address to a UN forum made via video link, Sophie called on the world to listen to the needs of survivors.

In her address, made on International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, the countess said: “Since the pandemic began, the number of cases of sexual violence across conflict settings and in domestic settings are very likely to have risen substantially.

“Women and girls once again are being affected disproportionately, with increased difficulties in accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare, higher numbers of maternal deaths and teenage pregnancies, closures of domestic violence shelters, closure of schools, reduction in aid work and funds for charities, delays in relief packages.”

Sophie told the virtual UN event for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: “Covid-19 has amplified suffering with the restrictions imposed on survivors.”

On International Women’s Day last year, the countess announced her commitment to champion the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI).

Sophie went on to speak at the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in New York, and attended a Foreign Office conference on PSVI with survivors, government and NGO representatives.

In her virtual address to the UN, the countess went on to say: “Time is against the victims and therefore it is imperative that national action plans are implemented or where possible even accelerated. But importantly in the course of our action, we must ensure all responses are best geared to them.

“My message therefore today is simple, and I hope I may speak for all survivors of conflict-related sexual violence when I say: we must listen to the needs and wishes of all survivors and we must act accordingly.”

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