COVID-19 hits those shackled by oppression hardest thanks to decades of inequalities, neglect and abuse

The global pandemic has exposed the terrible legacy of deliberately divisive and destructive policies that have perpetuated inequality, discrimination and oppression and paved the way for the devastation wrought by COVID-19, Amnesty International said in its annual report published today.

Amnesty International Report 2020/21: The State of the World’s Human Rights covers 149 countries and delivers a comprehensive analysis of human rights trends globally in 2020. In it, the organization describes those already most marginalized, including women and refugees, as bearing the devastating brunt of the pandemic, as a result of decades of discriminatory policy decisions by world leaders.

Amnesty’s report shows how existing inequalities as a result of decades of toxic leadership have left ethnic minorities, refugees, older persons, and women disproportionately negatively affected by the pandemic. COVID-19 worsened the already precarious situation of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in many countries, trapping some in squalid camps, cutting off vital supplies, or precipitating border controls that left many stranded.

The report highlights a marked increase in gender-based and domestic violence with many women and LGBTI persons facing increased barriers to protection and support due to restrictions on freedom of movement; lack of confidential mechanisms for victims to report violence while isolated with their abusers, and reduced capacity or suspension of services. Those on the frontlines of the pandemic – health workers, and those in the informal sector – suffered as a result of wilfully neglected health systems and pitiful social protection measures.

The report also paints a dismal picture of the failures of global leaders whose handling of the pandemic has been marked by opportunism and total contempt for human rights. Authorities passing legislation criminalizing commentary related to the pandemic has been a presiding pattern. Other leaders have used excessive force. Some leaders have gone a step further, using the distraction of the pandemic to clamp down on criticism – and critics – unrelated to the virus, and perpetrate other human rights violations while the gaze of the world’s media was elsewhere. World leaders have also wreaked havoc on the international stage, hampering collective recovery efforts by blocking or undermining international cooperation.

Regressive policies have inspired many people to join long-standing struggles as seen by the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, the #End SARS protests in Nigeria, and new and creative forms of protest such as virtual climate strikes.

The report details many important victories that human rights activists helped to secure in 2020, particularly across gender-based violence. These include new legislation to counter violence against women and girls in Kuwait, South Korea, and Sudan, and the decriminalization of abortion in Argentina, Northern Ireland, and South Korea.

Source: Amnesty Internaltional 

Author: Saara Teirikko