Gal Gadot pushes UN to fight ‘shadow pandemic’ of domestic abuse

‘Wonder Woman’ actress says technology can play a part in saving women from killer partners

This handout photo courtesy of the HFPA shows Gal Gadot arriving for the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California on February 27, 2021. Usually a star-packed, laid-back party that draws Tinseltown's biggest names to a Beverly Hills hotel ballroom, this pandemic edition will be broadcast from two scaled-down venues, with frontline and essential workers among the few in attendance. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HFPA " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot on Wednesday pressed the UN to do more to protect women from domestic violence, which has worsened as the Covid-19 pandemic has kept more families stuck at home.

The Israeli star, 35, appeared at a UN side event of the 65th Commission on the Status of Women, an annual meeting on female equality and empowerment that is being held online this year.

“It is time for a global forum like the United Nations to become involved in such an essential fight – a battle between life and death,” Gadot said in a video message from California.

“We must share our knowledge and tools to prevent even one more woman from being a victim of abuse. It is time to update the tools that we already have in use to prevent domestic violence.”

The meeting, co-hosted by the Israeli and US missions to the UN, addressed how mobile applications being developed by Israeli software engineers could help tackle domestic violence globally.

One system helps neighbours anonymously report distressing noises they hear through walls. Another mobile phone application scans the language used in digital messages and alerts women to early signs of an abusive partner.

According to UN Women, more than a third of women globally have experienced sexual violence or other physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. That figure is as high as 70 per cent in some countries.

Less than 40 per cent of women who suffer such violence seek help, often believing the police will not assist them. Worse still, about 140 women are killed every day by a member of their own family.

“Every year, hundreds of thousands of women are abused or murdered by their own partners in their own homes,” Gadot said.

“Due to the added stresses of Covid-19, these despicable incidents of violence have reached immeasurable new levels.”

Rates of abuse have soared amid the pandemic as women spend more time indoors after being laid off or while caring for children and relatives. In some countries, calls to abuse helplines have increased fivefold.

“The coronavirus has affected each one of us, but there is no doubt that women have suffered much more,” said Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan.

“Domestic violence has intensified and is clearly another global epidemic that we must tackle in the same way we do any other threat.”

Gadot, a former Miss Israel who served in the Israeli Defence Forces, made her Hollywood debut in the Fast and Furious franchise in 2009 and shot to fame as warrior Diana Prince in Wonder Woman in 2017.

She is married to Yaron Varsano and is pregnant with the couple’s third child.