COVID-19 AND WOMEN
Pradyumna Tiwari, II year of B.A.,LL.B. from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies
“When you are thinking about pandemic, you have to differentiate between what comes from being infected and what comes from being affected.”
- Clare Wenham[i]
Covid 19 has spread its tentacles over every sector and section of society across all over the world. No one remains aloof from its impact. The impact of Covid – 19 does not differentiate between poor and rich, young and old, male and female. The covid 19 has taken advantage of pre-existing inequalities or rather has further deepened existing inequalities and exposed vulnerabilities in the social, political and economic sphere.
The extent and scale of pandemic affect women and young girls in every aspect of their lives: their safety, well being, education, economic security, health and nutrition etc. In societies all over the world, women have been the vulnerable and stricken section, it would not be hyperbole to call this pandemic another stroke for stricken.
Impact on women
The tremors of this coronavirus outbreak have felt across various sectors. It is pertinent to note that its impact on marginalized sections, especially women, have been on severe fronts. Although the impact of covid has been on different fronts for brevity, impact on three fronts has been dealt with. These fronts are:-
1. Economic Impact
2. Health Impact
3. Gender-Based Violence
Emerging evidence on the impact of COVID-19 suggests that women’s economic and productive lives will be affected disproportionately and differently from men. Across the globe, women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs, are more likely to be employed in the informal sector. They have less access to social protection and are the majority of single-parent households. Their capacity to absorb economic shocks is therefore less than that of men.
As women take on greater care demands at home, their jobs will also be disproportionately affected by cuts and lay-offs. Such impacts risk rolling back the already fragile gains made in female labour force participation, limiting women’s ability to support themselves and their families, especially for female-headed households. In many countries, the first round of layoffs has been particularly acute in the services sector, including retail, hospitality and Tourism, where women are overrepresented.
The situation is worse in developing economies Where the vast majority of women’s employment – 70 percent – is in the informal economy with few protections against dismissal Or for paid sick leave and limited access to social protection. To earn a living these workers often depend on public space and social interactions, which are now being restricted to contain the spread of the pandemic. The Ebola virus showed that quarantines can Significantly reduce women’s economic and livelihood activities, increasing poverty rates, and Exacerbating food insecurity.
Health pandemics can make it more difficult For women and girls to receive treatment And health services. This is compounded by Multiple or intersecting inequalities, such as Ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, age, race, geographic location and sexual orientation, among others which influences Access and decision-making to critical health services and information about COVID-19.
Women and girls have unique health needs, but They are less likely to have access to quality health services, essential medicines and vaccines, maternal and reproductive health care, or Insurance coverage for routine and catastrophic Health costs, especially in rural and marginalized communities. Restrictive social norms and gender stereotypes can also limit women’s ability to access health services. All of this has particular Impacts during a widespread health crisis.
The provision of sexual and reproductive health services, including maternal health care and Gender-based violence-related services, is central to health, rights and well-being of women And girls. The diversion of attention and critical Resources away from these provisions may result in exacerbated maternal mortality and morbidity, increased rates of adolescent pregnancies, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.
On 5th April 2020 UN Secretary-General, AntónioGuterres made a statement regarding ending violence against women and girls. In the statement, he remarked that all the violence must end so that we can allocate resources to effectively deal with the pandemic. He then states that violence is not only a battlefield. It is even in homes. Through this, he urges to stop violence against females[ii]. While lockdown has been imposed across the globe as a positive step to contain the spread of coronavirus; it has been proved to be a double pandemic for women; owing to an exponential increase in cases of violence against women.
With lockdown, gender violence is shadow pandemic
The number of cases of abuses against women in India has been the highest in the last 10 preceding years. At this juncture, it is very interesting to note that this unusual spurt is only the tip of the iceberg as 86% of women who experience domestic violence do not seek help in India[iii].
Suggestions and Recommendations
The following are some of the recommendations/suggestions which can be kept in mind while drafting policies to tackle the impact of coronavirus on women.
These are as follows:-
1. Equal women representation in all covid 19 response planning and decision making
Evidence across Sectors, including economic planning and Emergency response, demonstrates unquestioningly that policies that do not consult Women or include them in decision-making Are simply less effective, and can even do Harm. Beyond individual women, women’s Organizations who are often on the front line of response in communities should also be Represented and supported.
2. DRIVE TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGE FOR EQUALITY BY ADDRESSING THE CARE ECONOMY, PAID AND UNPAID
In the formal economy care jobs, from teachers to nurses, are underpaid concerning other sectors. In the home, women perform the Bulk of care work, unpaid and invisible. Both are foundational to daily life and the economy but are premised on and Entrench gendered norms and inequalities.
3. TARGET WOMEN AND GIRLS IN ALL EFFORTS TO ADDRESS THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT OF COVID-19
It will be important to apply an intentional gender lens to the design of Fiscal stimulus packages and social assistance programmes to achieve greater equality, opportunities, and social protection.
It would be perfect to say that everyone whether healthy or sick, young or old etc. are vulnerable to its impact. But out of everyone else the marginalized sections, especially the women. There has been a profound effect on every aspect of the life of women. It would be apt to describe this situation of covid 19 as another misery to miserable man to women.
[i] Talha Burki, The Lancet Infectious disease, The indirect impact of COVID-19 on women,( August, 2020), https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30568-5/fulltext
[ii] Vignesh Radhakrishnan, Sumant Sen, Naresh Singaravelu, Data | Domestic violence complaints at a 10-year high during COVID-19 lockdown, (JUNE 22, 2020 12:08 IST), https://www.thehindu.com/data/data-domestic-violence-complaints-at-a-10-year-high-during-covid-19-lockdown/article31885001.ece