Women's rights and gender equality have taken a hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, with domestic violence and female unemployment on the rise in the EU, while women were under-represented in pandemic decision-making, the European Commission said on Friday.
"The past year was a difficult one. The Covid-19 pandemic has spared nobody and was particularly challenging for women around the world," the commission said in a statement.
One of those challenges was that of domestic violence, the commission said. In its annual gender equality report - published ahead of international women's day on Monday - the commission said that the number of domestic violence reports had seen a stark jump across the European Union. In France, for example, 32% more cases were reported, the commission said.
"Lockdown measures were set to keep people safe at home," the commission said in its report. "However, home turned out not to be safe for everyone and lockdown measures played a demonstrable role in the significant increase in reports of domestic violence and an increase in gender-based violence overall."
These effects could also linger on after lockdowns are lifted, the commission said, with socio-economic consequences being likely to continue after the pandemic.
For example, women were also harder hit by lay-offs, with fewer women than men finding jobs again after losing their positions, the commission said.
Aside from an immediate harsher economic impact, women could also feel the effects of the pandemic in the long term, the report found: "Women's pensions are often used to support their unemployed dependents during crises," the report said.
This means that even if women did not lose their employment during the pandemic, they are more likely to have used up their savings than men.
But while women have been impacted more severely by the pandemic, they have largely been excluded from decision-making processes in response to the health crisis, the commission said.
About 85% of national Covid-19 task forces were men, commission spokesperson Christian Wigand told reporters on Friday.