UAE praised for protecting women amid Covid-19 outbreak

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights mentions the Emirates as a place that has protected women and girls from contracting the virus by introducing work from home policies early on

FILE PHOTO: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet gives a speach during a forum on women of African descent in San Jose December 3, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate/File Photo
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The UAE was listed as one of the countries that has put policies in place to protect women and girls amid the coronavirus outbreak, by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Last week, the commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, was took part in a webinar organised by the International Gender Champions titled "Covid-19 and Gender Equality: Living Up to the Challenge."

During the session, she reviewed the challenges facing women, from access to work and livelihood, to gender-based violence in their homes and a right to healthcare.

States like Bahrain and UAE are paying specific attention to the health of women and girls at risk

Ms Bachelet, who is also the former president of Chile, said women were at greater risk of contracting the virus because they were over-represented in the healthcare sector (70 per cent).

She said 740 million women worldwide worked in “informal sectors” which typically means they have no health insurance or savings and will struggle to recover amid the outbreak as well as in the long term.

With lockdown measures, women in abusive situations are more exposed to violence, she said, noting the 30 per cent increase in reports of domestic abuse against women in France during the first week of the country’s lockdown.

Ms Bachelet explained how Covid-19 had disrupted daily lives in many ways “but it has not stopped gender-based bias.”

Despite this, she said efforts were being made in many countries to protect the human rights of women and girls while still responding to Covid-19 emergencies.

She mentioned a few examples of what she described as “promising practices” and included the UAE’s policies to protect women and girls from the virus among them.

“In terms of women’s rights to health, states like Bahrain and UAE are paying specific attention to the health of women and girls at risk in the preventive response to Covid-19,” she said.

Ms Bachelet was referring to the UAE’s early implementation of work from home policies for pregnant women and mothers with children in grade nine and younger, to protect them from potential infection.

In response to her comments, Ahmed Al Jarman, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Human Rights and International Law, said:

"The UAE is fully committed to the promotion of women's rights and considers the empowerment of women fundamental to the development of a modern and progressive society.

“The UAE considers the safety and security of women to be critical, as domestic violence is a serious crime in the country and is punishable by law.”