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Nordic and Baltic countries address the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on women and girls’ rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights

Delivered by Denmark
Informal conversation with Special Procedures mandate-holders
on human rights impacts of the COVID-19 crisis
30 April 2020
[Check against delivery]

Mdm. President,
I have the honour of delivering this statement on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries: Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, and my own country Denmark.
Mdm. President, we thank you for organizing this meeting. We welcome the opportunity to engage with Special Procedures mandate-holders and thank them for their important work on the human rights impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. 
The pandemic poses far-reaching threats to all human rights. Different countries are now entering different phases of the pandemic. Some are starting to ease emergency restrictions, while others are extending extraordinary measures. In either case, States must ensure measures are proportionate, time bound, prescribed by law, and be guided by the principles of non-discrimination, democracy, gender equality, and the rule of law. Access to information, including through free, independent, and pluralistic media is crucial to alleviate the impacts of the crisis.
COVID-19 is a global public health emergency posing unprecedented challenges. The virus does not discriminate, but its impacts do. It has exposed weaknesses in the delivery of public health services and inequalities that impede access to them, particularly for persons in vulnerable situations, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, minorities, migrants, refugees, people in conflict zones, LGBTI persons, and older persons.
We particularly see increased impacts of the pandemic on women and girls’ rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. Women are disproportionately exposed, with many on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. As health facilities are overburdened and supply chains disrupted, women and girls face restrictions on the provision of essential health services, including access to sexual and reproductive health services. UNFPA estimates that 31 million additional sexual and gender-based violence cases can be expected during this period. Lockdowns also increase the risk of violence and exploitation of children.
During this unprecedented crisis, we remain fully committed to gender equality and SRHR. SRHR is key to ensure women and girls’ full and equal enjoyment of all human rights. We stress the importance of ensuring all actions taken in response to the crisis are gender-responsive and strongly support the Secretary-General’s call to make gender equality and the prevention and redress of violence against women and girls a key part of national response plans to COVID-19.
Distinguished speakers, in your view, how do states best ensure that women and girls’ rights, especially SRHR, are protected during this time of crisis? Both in our short-term responses, but also in the long-term?
I thank you.