THE pandemic has without doubt affected men and women in a different manner. It has resulted in affecting adversely the economic, social, human rights aspects and with the health of women. Although during the pandemic mostly the concept of women being more adversely affected than men have rarely being discussed.
Women who continued to be the marginalised section of society whereby according to the WHO report, “70 per cent of workers in the health and social sectors are women” but a study also says that “overall, an average pay gap of 28 per cent exists in the health workforce, once occupation and workforce are accounted for the gender pay gap is 11 per cent.”
Yet the nurses, childcare workers, care givers to aged and the cleaning staffers continue to be the frontline workers during the times of the global pandemic. The already existing inequalities in society for women have been intensified whereby even the little gains of the past for women have been maligned. In each and every sphere, women have continued to suffer at greater extents during the Coronavirus outbreak.
The women although the primary caretakers in each and every household and also constitute the frontline workers in health care giving but have meagre say in the policy formulations as they are inadequately represented in society and community.
The women for this reason of being the primary health care providers have greater chances of contracting the disease. Moreover, there has been an adverse effect of coronavirus has resulted in the loss of jobs of various people across countries whose effects also falls on the women of the society.
There have also been greater incidences of violence of women in the households by their very partners because of the psychological distress of men. Greater cases of domestic assaults, marital rapes are issues of growing concern in the societies across nations because of the lockdown periods and the loss of jobs as well as in many cases the decrease in salaries of various male members of society. Women have been the victim of financial, emotional stress and also of the increasing physical abuses as a result of confinement with abusive partners during these challenging times.
Although women in rural India have largely been involved in the farming activities yet they hardly get the fruits of their labour in terms of finance but are controlled by male-counterparts in a patriarchal society altogether. In urban areas women may have to handle greater works at home in terms of the care giving or handling household chores during pandemic period which may result in leaving or compromising to leave the jobs in case of the women, which results in reduction in their financial independence in society.
Also, David Evans, Senior Fellow at Centre for Global Development indicated four concerns for women during pandemics: “Sexual health, intimate partner violence, the burden of care and economic crisis.” India has been one of the most dangerous countries in terms of violence against women which have been on the up rise in midst of the upsetting times.
There had also been grave situation in regards to the provisions of family planning and other sexual health commodities including the menstrual health products which had adverse effects in terms of their supply during the pandemic situation.
Moreover the stereotypical gendered roles of women in society have been aggravated which need fastest attention of the policy makers. This has caused adverse mental health effects in women during the pandemic situation.
The concerns of women’s rights which have become the greatest during the pandemic can curb the rights and freedoms of women may in turn affect the communities and societies adversely. Antonio Guterres, the ninth Secretary General of the United Nations says, “The unfair and unequal treatment of working women is one reason why I went into politics.
In the late 1960s, as a student volunteer doing social work in poor areas of Lisbon, I saw women in very difficult situations, doing menial jobs and carrying the weight of their extended families.”
Although these conditions were a bit improved but the COVID-19 tends to bring these situations back on brunt of the huge economic crises across the globe. Moreover, the pandemic has also resulted in a huge number of girls to dropout from schools which were also evident during the Ebola epidemic.
There has been also a delay for the women to get back to their work as long as the pandemic continues due to the increase in domestic works as well as the huge responsibilities of health care in the family to children and the aged. In these situations, women are also having adverse effects in terms of their reproductive health services whereby there has been a staunch increase in the maternal and neo-natal mortality.
Due to fear of contracting the virus in places of health care facilities there has been greater risk for both mothers and the child. The situation becomes graver when pregnant women contract the disease. “In March, 2020, World Health Organisation issued guidance for maintaining essential services during an outbreak, which included advice to prioritise services related to reproductive health and make efforts to avert maternal and child morbidity and mortality.” In many of the backward countries of the world the basic places of receiving healthcare facilities were shut because of the pandemic situation.
It’s time the world also gives an eye to the gender sensitive view of the COVID-19 pandemic. There should be more and more public policy representatives who are women so that it can represent the gender specific needs of women during this time of the pandemics. Legal procedures should be more stringent in taking quick actions and steps in regard to violence against women in various parts of the world. “UNESCO estimated that the pandemic was preventing 1.52 billion children from attending school.”
This results in women facing greater abuses and also issues like early marriage. Loss of work has adverse implications for women in society as they in turn become again a part of the unpaid labour force or a worker in some unorganised sector.
Hence, it is the dire need of the governments across the world to give a serious focus on the issues faced by women during the pandemic and also commit themselves to escalate their precarious condition in society as well as each and every community as it compromises with the rights and dignities of human beings especially women.