In a new essay for TIME, actor and activist Angelina Jolie explains the toll that the coronavirus pandemic is taking on women globally. She argues that the little progress that has been made over the past few decades could be wiped out entirely if renewed attention isn’t given to gender-based violence and equity.
“While the virus has inflamed inequities in societies, it did not create them,” the actor and UN Special envoy explained. “Humans—not disease—are responsible for unjust laws and systems, and racial and social inequality. The coronavirus is just the latest excuse for all that we didn’t fix ourselves.”
In an essay entitled, ‘How the Pandemic Is Hurting Women in a World That Already Didn’t Care About Them,’ Jolie addresses the erasure of decades of progress.
“The UN Secretary General’s latest report on COVID-19 contains a chilling statement: ‘gains on gender equality risk being reversed by decades’ by the pandemic,” Jolie wrote. “The numbers paint a stark picture of a possible 2 million additional cases of female genital mutilation globally by 2030, 13 million additional child marriages, an additional 15 million women and girls subjected to gender-based violence for every 3 months of lockdown, and a further 47 million women forced into extreme poverty.”
“The prospect of ‘decades’ of progress in women’s rights being undone by the pandemic is intolerable and ought to be unthinkable,” Jolie declared.
She cited that in America, alone, “more than three women a day on average were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.”
The Changeling actor also warned that protecting women should be a “partisan issue” but that it has historically been and will continue to be one.
“The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was allowed to lapse in February 2019 and has yet to be reauthorized,” the star continued. “Only Joe Biden has committed to the authorization of VAWA in his first 100 days in office and to America leading in the fight against gender-based violence globally.”
“We live in an era of artificial intelligence and quantum computing,” the activist continued. “Yet the basic rights of women to an education, the vote, control over their bodies, equal protection under the law, equal pay and full representation in society, are still debated in terms that would be familiar to early campaigners for women’s rights, with much of the same old unrepentant misogyny, worn out excuses, and outright violence.”
“Not to use our influence to defend and promote women’s rights at a time when they are threatened would betray the fundamental principles of our democracy,” Jolie wrote in conclusion.
This is not the first time we’ve heard Jolie’s voice during this pandemic. In April, she wrote a compelling essay that also appeared in TIME about the need to provide protections for children who would likely see increased violence and food scarcity as a result of the coronavirus.
“Over a billion children are out of school worldwide because of closures linked to coronavirus. Many children depend on the care and nutrition they receive during school hours, including nearly 22 million children in America who rely on food support,” Jolie said in a statement at the time. “No Kid Hungry is making resolute efforts to reach as many of those children as possible.”
In 2012, after more than a decade of service as a United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie was promoted to the rank of Special Envoy to High Commissioner António Guterres, the first to take on such a position within the organization. In her expanded role, she was given authority to represent Guterres and UNHCR at the diplomatic level, with a focus on major refugee crises.
We’re so happy to read that Jolie is using her platform and wealth of experience obtained from countless field visits and missions to some of the world’s most pressing crises to speak up for women’s rights and against gender-based violence.