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HomeUJSCOVID-19 and Women: Socio-Economic Issues and Concerns

COVID-19 and Women: Socio-Economic Issues and Concerns

University Journal of Society
ISSN: Applied, Year 2021, Vol. 01, No. 01
Article | PDF Version

Dr. Priyadarsini Samantaray* and Dr. Upasana Borthakur**

* Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Galgotias University, Greater Noida, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, India, Email: priyajnu123@gmail.com, priyadarsini.samantaray@galgotiasuniversity.edu.in (Corresponding Author)
** Research Scholar, IGNOU, New Delhi, upasanabrothakur@gmail.com

Received: 25.11.2020, Accepted: 26.11.2020, Published: (forthcoming) 26.11.2021, Pg. No. 32-51
Content ID: UJS/2021/V01N01/C03

Abstract

This paper is searching gender and pandemic relations. This is said that the pandemic is not making different people on the basis of their social, cultural and geographical identity including sex and gender. But this is not true, because of the social constriction of society. One section of the society can be impacted severely than others just because of the social structure, culture and mode of function of the government. This article is searching the different perspectives of the impact of COVID-19 on women. How women were affected economically, educationally, emotionally, and she was suffered and reacted towards the migration and the violence.

Keywords

COVID-19 and Gender, COVID-19 and Migration, COVID-19 and Violence, COVID-19 and Women, COVID-19 and Women and Policy, Socio-Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Women, Violence against Women and COVID-19

Background

The world has shut down. There is an air of stillness and humanity confronts an almost existential challenge of the Corona Virus pandemic. At this point Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) was declared globally a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11th March, 2020 and since then it’s caused major devastation globally. In order to control the spread of the virus, strict lockdowns, quarantines and restrictions on movement was imposed by various countries which had devastating impact on the economy, social systems, health systems and individual lives. But the pandemic is affecting women more severely in many ways from their health and income security, to additional caring responsibility and increased exposure to domestic violence. So, this paper will explore the challenges associated with the women differently due to impose the strict restrictions on the movement of people and global shut down.

Methods

A newspaper reports, books, Government and Non-government organization reports that associated to Covid-19. Socio-economic impacts have also been added from different reliable sources as per reference.

Results

The pandemic has reinforced the pre existing gender inequalities in our society. A nationwide lockdown disproportionately affects the most underprivileged sections of society. Economic impacts are severely felt by women and girls who are generally earning less; work in the informal sectors with no social protection and living close to poverty. The health of the women and girls are also impacted with reallocation of resources and priorities, including sexual and reproductive health services. The primary responsibility of the women is domestic sphere even though she may be working outside. With the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns the unpaid care work of women has increased, with children in homes because of closed schools and health care needs of older persons and overwhelmed health services. Moreover because the pandemic deepens economic, social and mental stress coupled with movement restrictions and locked inside homes resulting in gender based violence.

Conclusion

To deal with these burning Socio-economic issues there is need of attention on inequalities and prevention model to be developed and implemented on these strata of societies. It has an inimical impact upon these people right to physical safety and security consequently; the state the study suggested the Government will take some measures to achieve greater gender equality in times of the pandemic.

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has become the most crucial global health calamity of the 21st century and the greatest challenge to the humankind since the 2nd World War. In the name COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona’, ‘VI’ for ‘virus’, and ‘D’ for disease, and 19 represents the year of its occurrence. Corona virus is a single stranded Ribonucleic Acid (RNS) virus with a diameter ranging from 80 to 120 nm. The first modern COVID-19 pandemic was reported in December 2019, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China and most initial cases were related to source infection from a seafood wholesale market (Huang et al.: 2020).

Since then the disease has spread like wild fire across the globe and has eventually affected every continent except Antarctica. It has been categorised as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11th March, 2020 (WHO: 2020). International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) named the virus as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Gorbalenya et al.: 2020). According to WHO, in 2002-2003, more than 8000 people suffered and 774 dies of a corona virus, called SARS. In 2012, MERS-CoV pandemic broke out infecting more than 2494 persons and killing over 858 lives worldwide (WHO: 2004, WHO: 2013). Apart from COVID-19, the human civilization has witness at least five pandemics in the current century, e.g. H1N1 in 2009, polio in 2014, Ebola (out broke in West Africa in 2014), Zika (2016) and Ebola (Democratic Republic of Congo in 2019). Subsequently COVID-19 outbreak has been declared as the sixth public health emergency of international concern on 30th Jan, 2020, by the WHO. These worldwide outbreaks triggered a large number of fatalities, morbidities, and cost billions of dollars (Allocati et al.: 2016; Fan et al.: 2019). Compared to the other disease COVID-19 is likely to cause as much or greater human suffering than other contagious diseases in the whole world.

The pandemic affects all segments of population and has an incommensurable impact on people, especially as a result of their gender, disabilities, ethnicities, indigenous people, socio-economic classes and even age. The initial reports suggest that the mortality rates of men are more than women in case of COVID-19 related deaths. The men’s immune systems are less equipped to fight the virus but the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 are falling disproportionately on women. These effects are clearly seen in developing countries like India, where gender inequality is a persistent challenge. Thus COVID-19 affects men and women differently, with greater negative effect on women. This pandemic should address properly through policy or else the crisis will increase inequality, exclusion, discrimination and global unemployment in the medium and long term. In this chapter an attempt has been made to understand the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 on women, which includes examining their economic impacts, educational impacts, unpaid care work, gender based violence and their health impacts. We also talk about policy recommendations and some directions for the future.

Socio-Economic Consequences of COVID-19 on Women

Women are bearing the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic very severely. This year 2020 marked 110 years of International Women’s Day celebration and it is also the 25th year of Beijing Platform Action which was formulated for gender equality. But instead feminism has been locked down and the process of achieving gender equality seems to be slowing down due to the pandemic. The pandemic has further deepened the pre existing gender inequalities in social, economic and political systems and women and girls by virtue of their gender are suffering in almost every sphere of life from health to the economy, security to social protection.

Women and girls who are severely affected by economic crisis generally earning less; work in informal sectors with no social protection and living close to poverty. The primary responsibility of the women is domestic sphere even though she may be working outside. With the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns the unpaid care work of women has increased, with children in homes because of closed schools and heightened care needs of older persons and overwhelmed health services.

Moreover as the pandemic deepens economic and social stress coupled with movement restrictions and social isolation results in gender based violence. Many women are forced to stay at home with their abusers as support services are being disrupted or made inaccessible (UN: April, 2020). In the following paragraphs we will discuss the socio- economic impact of COVID-19 on women all around the world and India in particular.

Economic Impacts

There will be a profound impact of COVID-19 across the global economy. The trade and markets have been disrupted, businesses are required to close and millions have or will lose their livelihoods. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has estimated that full or partial lockdown measures has affected almost 2.7 billion workers, representing around 81% of the world’s workforce and the International Monetary Found (IMF) projects a significant contraction of global output in 2020 (IMF: 2020).

All over the world, women earn less, save less and work in informal sector with no social welfare and security measures. As women’s main responsibility is the domestic sphere and they take on greater care demands at home so their jobs will also be disproportionately affected by cuts and lay-offs. The emerging evidence suggests that the impact of COVID-19 will disproportionately and differently affect women’s economic and productive lives from men.

In many countries of the world the first round of layoffs has been particularly in the service sector including retail, hospitality and tourism, where women are over represented. This situation is worst in developing countries including India, where 70% of women’s employment is in the informal sector with no social protections. Moreover these workers often depend on public space and social interactions to make a living and to contain the spread of the virus restricted. The Ebola virus has shown that quarantines can significantly reduce women’s economic and livelihood activities, increases poverty rates and exacerbates food insecurity (Leone: 2014).

The Ebola prevention measures on travel restrictions severely impacted women’s livelihoods and economic security in Liberia as approximately 85% of daily market traders are women (UN Women: 2014). Men’s economic activity returned to normal shortly after the preventive measures subsided but the impacts on women’s economic security and livelihoods lasted much longer. Thus from the past experience and emerging data it can be inferred that the impacts of COVID-19 global recession will result in prolonged dip in women’s labour force participation. This will take a toll on those already living in extreme poverty.

The early evidence suggests that women are being hit harder than men by the pandemic in the United States. As per official statistics in April, 2020, US monthly unemployment rates are increased sharply from 3.4 to 13.0 percent for adult men and from 3.1 to 15.5 per cent for adult women. Thus differences in wages between men and women labourers, educational gaps, and limited access to finance, greater proportion of women working in informal sector and social constraints all tend to make women more vulnerable to economic recessions.

In addition to the temporary closure of schools, childcare and other household chores are having a significant burden on working mothers. Some are changing their work schedules, reducing their working hours or taking unpaid leave. The international travel restrictions and supply chain disruptions has affected production, consumption and trade. In many countries production of essential goods and services has been allowed. Many factories have temporarily string up their production because of shortage of imported materials and low demand. The supply chain disruptions and delays in shipping times have rapidly unfurled the economic effects across the global economy.

As a result the world trade fell steeply in the first half of 2020 (WTO: 2020). Some of the sectors where women are overrepresented are particularly exposed to travel and trade restrictions. Data from United States of America and China confirm that a majority of women tends to work in the manufacturing industries that experienced the largest fall in export growth during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the most severely affected manufacturing industries are highly connected to global chains, such as textiles, leather and footwear, apparel, telecommunication products, transport equipment, furniture and machinery and some of these industries are characterized by high labour shares (WTO: 2020).

The global garment and textile industry, which employs a large number of women, has been heavily impacted by a large number of order cancellations and the temporary closure of retail shops resulting in many factory shutdowns in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam. The apparel and garment factory losses have resulted in job losses and financial hardships for people, many of whom are women, across the global supply chain (McKinsey & Company: 2020).

The tourism activities have also been significantly affected by COVID-19. Women have been particularly affected by this as they make up the largest share of employees in tourism. Other sectors that depend on tourism, including food services and handicrafts, have also been indirectly been impacted by international travel restrictions. This is particularly challenging for women with low skills or who work informally, in particular in economies highly dependent on tourism (Barkas, et al.: 2020).

The female entrepreneurs are also likely to be affected those who tend to own Medium to Small Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) (WTO: 2019). Many MSMEs are also affected by a limited workforce availability, supply disruptions and policy uncertainty. Evidence confirms that many MSMEs in both developed and developing economies have been forced to close down their activities during the pandemic (Borino and Russo: 2020).

In developing economies many women work in the informal sector without getting any social protections. The women in the developing countries like India are likely to be hardest hit by the pandemic. However these jobs in the informal sector are low skilled and low paid jobs which provide women with limited resources to adjust to the economic crisis. The work from home option is also not available for women who work in the informal sector. Many women are therefore unable to work and earn a living during the lockdown. Finally limited digital connectivity, digital divide in regard to access to technology, as well as poor IT skills prevent women workers from making use of digital technologies to mitigate the adverse economic effects of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further entrenched the gender inequalities in India where women already face a wide gap in employment, wages and education. Even before the pandemic there was low female labour force participation and they earned less than men. These statistics will worsen after the pandemic. The sixth economic census of India, published in 2016, states that 13.8 per cent of business establishments in India are owned by women, a majority of which are microenterprises and self financed. Many of these women led business are found in sectors like tourism, education and beauty, which have been affected by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. According to the latest data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s Consumer Pyramids Household Survey, already at least 4 in 10 women in India have lost their jobs during the pandemic. Many women will be at the risk of permanent exit from the labour market which will result in feminization of income poverty.

This will have adverse impact on the household with lower schooling and poorer heath outcomes in the next generation. With food shortage in the household gender inequality also worsens with strong patriarchal cultural traditions in India. The World Economic Forum ranks India the fifth lowest (149th) on its Global Gender Gap Report on economic participation and opportunity matrix trailed only by Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

The immediate health crisis caused by the pandemic will be over within a short period of time but it is very likely that the economic impacts will linger for years to come. So without support from policymakers the pandemic will increase the risk of “rolling back” the meaningful gains achieved by women with regards to their participation in the formal labour force over the years.This applies to women in formal employment. As for million of the female workers in the informal sector, life remains difficult. (Nabthini & Nair,2020)

Reverse Migration

The International Labour Organization also states that 81 per cent of Indian women work in the informal sector. Due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown the informal sector is worst hit in India and as a result women are also affected.

The pandemic has also altered the labour markets and the women migrant workers are the worst affected. The migrant women are often employed in jobs at the lower ranks which typically involve tasks that are culturally devalued and receive limited recognition. There is gender wage gap and they work in precarious, insecure and informal work and receive lower pay. In many countries around the world migrant women constitute a large proportion of domestic workers. At the present movement because of movement restrictions the women domestic workers are at a precarious position. Many migrant domestic workers are dismissed from jobs without any notice and these women are unable to find new jobs or return to their countries of origin as the borders are closed. Care work is very essential for global economies to function but because of its gendered and racialized nature this form of labour is socially and structurally devalued and lack social welfare and security measures.

In rural areas, women’s involvement on farms may go up in regions where there is shortage of labour due to a decrease in the number of migrant labourers. In India during this year’s harvest season (March-April), many migrants have moved back to their homes. This may result in higher agricultural wages for women in the short-run. Therefore, the demand for women’s time both within and outside the household may rise in rural India. In urban areas, due to the greater proportion of nuclear families, women may be needed to support the family by being at home to take care of the sick and/or due to loss of jobs/earnings in the immediate future. In the long-run, however, if working from home becomes the norm; more work opportunities may become available to women who often prefer home-based work.

Migration has earlier been explained in dual terms of the push and pulls factors. No doubt this pandemic has pushed the question of inequality and movement from Urban to rural. Migration was undertaken with the aim of betterment and economic gain but now it is associated with the name of capitalist surplus and exploitation. Capitalists will undertake production only when they can make profits. Profits depend on worker exploitation, on the extraction of surplus.

Since production under capitalism poses obstacles for the working class and increased exploitation would compel even larger section of the industrial working class especially male and female migrant labours move back to their village in search of security and livelihood. With the people going back to their villages, the rural parts of the country are equally Vulnerable to the virus. We have a gradual shift of COVID-19 cases from urban to rural regions. More than half of the infected cases are the migrant workers who returned from larger urban area (Mishra: 2020).

However, the migrant workers are no more insiders. After 14 days of isolation they still fells that people are looking at suspicious. It creates a new kind of social unsociability. New kind of untouchability that virus has created.

The ILO (2020) notes that in the absence of these protections, there is a risk of spreading the virus among communities, including those are in the domestic work. Thus from the above it can be seen that the COVID-19 is and will profoundly impact the economic lives of the women.

Health Impacts

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for women and girls to receive treatment and health services. This is made more difficult by the multiple or intersecting inequalities, such as ethnicity, socio-economic status, disability, age, race, geographic location and sexual orientation which influences access and decision making to critical health services. Women and girls have special health needs because of their biological makeup, but they are less likely to have access to quality health services, essential medicines and vaccines, maternal and reproductive health care, especially in rural and marginalized communities. The strict gender stereotypes and social norms also limit women’s ability to access health services.

All of these have particular impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women are at high risk of exposure due to the occupational sex segregation. All over the world, women constitute 70% of the health workforce and are more likely to be front line health workers, especially nurses, midwives and community health workers. They also form the majority of health facility service staff such as cleaners, laundry, catering and so they are more likely to be exposed to the virus. Despite these numbers women are not accounted for in national or global decision making on response to COVID-19. Moreover during the pandemic the access to sexual and reproductive health for women and girls may be reduced. Evidence from previous outbreaks like the Ebola pandemic or Zika epidemic indicate that sexual and reproductive health services including pregnancy, contraceptives, sexual assault services and safe abortions are likely to be scaled back. This may result in increased risk of maternal mortality, morbidity, teenage pregnancies, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases for women and girls. In Latin America and the Caribbean it is estimated that an additional 18 million women will lose regular access to modern contraceptives in this current context of the pandemic (UN: 2020).

The limited availability of essential health services for women will be detrimental in the long run. According to UNICEF, India would have the highest number of forecast births, at 20 million, in the nine months period dating from when COVID-19 was first declared a pandemic. The Guttmacher institute has projected that there will be a 10% decline in use of reversible contraceptive methods in low-and-middle-income countries due to reduced access and this would result in an additional 49 million women with an unmet need for modern contraceptives and an additional 15 million unintended pregnancies over the course of a year (Kalynam: 2020).

Recently released projections by the UNFPA suggest that 47 million women in 114 low-and-middle income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives and 7 million unintended pregnancies are expected to occur if the lockdown carries on for six months and there are major disruptions to health services. For every three months the lockdown continues, up to an additional two million women may be unable to use modern contraceptives (UNFPA:2020).

The health of the migrant women will be worst affected as in many countries they constitute a significant proportion of the workforce in the health and care sectors. Women constitute over 70 per cent of global front line health and social care workers and they are working day in and out in the hospitals during this pandemic. But the working conditions of these workers have not improved. The UN Women (2020) states that during the pandemic, migrant women workers in health care settings are at an increased risk of experiencing sexual harassment and violence by patients, their family members and other employees.

Moreover the personal protective equipment which is presented as unisex is often designed for men’s bodies and does not fit women, so they are at greater risk of contracting the disease. Many migrant women workers are experiencing double burden of work due to the pandemic. The working hours of health workers have increased and they have also to work in homes because of school closures and lack of available childcare services.

As more than 70 per cent of the global health workforce is women so they are at increased risk and vulnerability of contracting the disease because of frequent exposure to patients with COVID-19 infection. Therefore adequate steps should be taken to safeguard the health workers. Proper fitting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), essential products for hygiene and sanitation and psychosocial support should be provided for proper health of the workers. There are also inequalities in access to information, prevention, care and financial and social protection which are affecting the poor and other populations facing social exclusion, like the poor and the marginalized communities. The poor live in crowded places and lack access to basic services, such as safe water and improved sanitation and are at greater risks of infection. These people have limited ability to comply with physical distancing due to overcrowding or to wash hands regularly due to lack of clean water and soap (UN Women: 2020).

Moreover gender norms influence timely access to health services for both men and women. The lockdowns and social distancing measures are further increasing the existing cultural restrictions on women’s mobility which further limits their access to resources and their decision making power in households. There is also an increased stigma and discrimination due to COVID-19 and it can hamper effective response. In many countries around the world there have been reports of stigma and discrimination against infected persons, health care professionals, people from certain ethnic communities and those who have travelled to affected countries. This can have negative effects on a person’s physical, mental and social health due to physical violence, social rejection and limitation or denial of access to health services, education, housing or employment.

The COVID-19 pandemic and strict lockdown in India have affected the reproductive services such as pregnancy, family planning and abortion services adversely. Although the government of India has deemed health services as essential services but the access and availability continues to be a big challenge. This situation has led to a prevailing feeling that gains made in the country to prevent maternal, newborn and child mortality in the last two decades will be reversed by COVID-19.

According to estimates by health experts, millions of couples have lost access to family planning services. The large service disruptions in India due to the pandemic have the potential to leave more than 4 million women without access to facility based deliveries. As a result child mortality in India could increase by 40 per cent and maternal mortality by 52 percent over the next year. There is confusion and lack of confusion among pregnant women and their families on where to go for health services, as hospitals are now dedicated to COVID-19. The media reports data from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar and Chhattisgarh highlight that the number of institutional deliveries have fallen by as much as 40 per cent during the lockdown, with many women giving birth at home. The pandemic also made access to and use of contraception compromised to a large extent. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare suspended provision of sterilizations and Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs) during the lockdown and the travel restrictions made access to Over the Counter Contraceptives (OTC), condoms, oral contraceptive pills and emergency contraceptive pills difficult (Motihar: 2020).

Thus the pandemic threatens to reverse the limited progress made on gender equality and women’s sexual and reproductive health as COVID-19 has disrupted the essential health services, including family planning, pre and post natal health care, contraceptive supply, menstrual health and other reproductive health services.

Educational Impacts

According to the fourth annual UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) this year on June 23, about 40 per cent of lower middle income countries have not provided any supportive measures to disadvantages learners during school shutdown, which was announced to contain the spread of the virus. The lockdown has emphasized the need to re-evaluate our educational system with the help of technology and to make it more inclusive and flexible.

“In a crisis like Covid-19, girls and young women are the first to be removed from school and last to return” said Malala Yousafai

During the pandemic the whole education system has shifted to online mode and technology has made major life easier but the system had a two faced fallout. One is not being fully equipped with enough resources and technology to shift to online mode and the other for assuming that everyone can access to online classes as the best platform to empower learning in Covid era.

The girls’ education in a patriarchal society like India is suffering as the entire school system shifted to digital mode. The idea of online classes in itself is coming from Urban privileged and patriarchal system. At homes the girls are overburdened with household chores and they have less access to technology and so the concerns regarding girl’s education get sidelined. This unequal access to technology has many consequences for women, around their education and employments. As classes shift to online mode, girls are more likely to lose out on the classes given the conditions that boys have access to internet and computers. The control over resources and knowledge lies in the hands of the males. Mainly two key indicators for girls being out of school are poverty and Patriarchy. Certainly when the two combine, there is exponential increase in out of school girls. This pandemic has magnified inequalities like never before.

This year in June, 2020, a 14 year old SC girl in Kerala died by suicide, as she could not attend online classes due to lack of technology. This one was reported news and many incidents go unrecorded. The similar suicidal cases were recorded across the country including university from National Capital New Delhi. In families where both boys and girls are studying, the brother gets preference to have access to online classes via mobile phones. There is an urgent need that the education system becomes a gender positive approach for equitable access to technology. The schools other than engaging girls only in academics, it also provided a safe space for girls. In schools they have a lot of opportunities to talk to teachers, peers and friends. They are free from household and care work and they can play and engage in all sorts of activities which encourage them to aspire. In addition to not being able to attend online classes and increased burden of household labour, the pandemic has resulted in the early marriage of girls. This is life altering for many girls as they would never return to school and will be forced to get married (Feminism in India: 2020).

According to United Nation’s policy brief on the pandemic’s impact on education (2020), almost 24 million children are at risk of not returning to school next year due to the economic fallout of COVID-19. World education system has been affected by the COVID-19, but the pandemic has also served to exacerbate existing disparities, with vulnerable populations in low-income countries taking a harder and longer hit. For example, during the second quarter of 2020, 86 per cent of children at the primary level have been effectively out of school in poor countries, compared to just 20 per cent in highly developed countries (UN: 2020).

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that 23.8 million additional children and youth [from pre-primary to tertiary] may drop out or not have access to school next year due to the pandemic’s economic impact alone. The number of children not returning to their education after the school closures is likely to be even greater- says the policy brief, adding that girls and young women are likely to be disproportionately affected as school closures make them more vulnerable to child marriage, early pregnancy and gender-based violence

According to UNESCO the country wide school closure in India has affected 320 million children enrolled from pre primary to tertiary levels of education. It is estimated that of these about, 158 million are female students. School closures are likely to bring other related risks to millions of girls and young women in countries where attaining education is already a struggle on account of gender bias. During the Ebola pandemic, a large number if girls dropped out of school due to increase in domestic, caring responsibilities as well as a shift towards income generation. India may face identical consequences as here the burden of unpaid domestic and care economy is largely carried by girls and women. This may result in higher risks of girls permanently dropping out of school and reversing the gains made in recent years.

School closures can have a disproportionate impact on countries where girls’ education already lags behind boys’ education. The economic hardships caused by the pandemic will force parents to think about re sending their daughters to schools. It is estimated that the close closures due to COVID-19 will have a proportionately larger impact on girls in low and middle income countries.

Other than education schools also help in maintaining health, hygiene and safety of girls. Schools allow equal opportunity to avail resources such as food, water and sanitation facilities for girls. Schools also shelter girls from abusive and violent domestic environments. The closure of schools has affected the availability of proper nutrition and sanitation facilities for girls and also made them more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence. In the aftermath of Ebola pandemic, there was a substantial rise in adolescent pregnancies, child labour and child marriage which was directly linked to the closure of schools.

Soni (2020) examines the global impact of the e learning process during COVID-19. Due to lockdown and social distancing measures the education system is completely shut down and there is a shift from the regular learning process to electronic learning. Now the world is completely dependent on information technologies during this pandemic. Especially in the education system E-learning has been found to be a significant tool for effectively continuing the teaching learning process during the lockdown. E-learning fulfills the needs of today’s learners at their own comfort and requirements. Despite the advantages there are also many disadvantages of E-learning. All students do not have the access to online modes of education like smart phones or laptops. Moreover the teachers are also lack online teaching skills and the online preparations of lesson plans are very time consuming. The students are facing challenges due to their deficiency of proper learning aptitude, lack of suitable materials for learning, more involvement in classroom learning, lack of self discipline and the inadequate learning environment at some of their homes during self isolation (Brazendale, et.al,: 2017).

The teachers are also experiencing a huge weight on their mental health as they have to endure the load of the education system during these tough times. Lack of resources is also becoming a great hurdle for the teaching learning process. Students are also difficulties with poor internet connection majorly in few places like India, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Africa. The school closures due to the pandemic have impacted at least 124,000 U.S public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students (Education Week: 2020b cited in Dutta: 2020).

Dutta (2020) examines the impact of school closures on health behavior of the school age children and found that it affects their mobility, physical activity, access to school meal services and psychological distress caused by prolonged social distancing. Thus the global pandemic is impacting the education of children and especially girls. The epidemic also reduced funding for education as government supported funds to public health and put a strain on the preexisting teacher shortage.

However Education is not only a fundamental human right. It is an enabling right with direct impact on the realization of all other human rights. Now a day’s technology has grip of our educational system. In order to mitigate the devasting consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, stakeholders and policy makers strengthen the resilience of education system, focus on equity and inclusion, reinforce capacity for risk management, ensure strong leadership and coordination, and enhance consultation and communication mechanisms (UN: 2020).

Gender Based Violence

The violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, a universal issue, with great impact on victims/ survivor, their families and communities. Gender based violence is a result of gendered unequal power dynamic that manifests in physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence. It can have a devasting impact on girls short and long term mental and physical well being as well as her sexual and reproductive health.

It is painful to say the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to another crisis triggered by the Lockdown inside abusive homes and circumstances. A large number of cases have been reported in the United states, United kingdom, France, Spain and Italy. While domestic reports to police more than tripled in China, in Brazil, it is estimated to have increased by 40-50 per cent (Harrison et al.: 2020).

In France, for example cases of domestic violence have increased by 30 percent since the lockdown on Mach 17th. Cyprus and Singapore have registered an increase in call by 30 percent and 33 percent, respectively. In Argentina, emergency calls for domestic violence cases have increased by 25 percent since the lockdown started.

Under circumstances where women cannot leave the house or experience privacy, is essential that all communication channels remain open. Worse still, most women face difficulties in reporting violence, due to trapped in the home with their abusers. It has rooted in power and control. Women and girls are at increased risk of abuse when they are trapped with the perpetrators and there is less scrutiny and no support available for the victims.

In the current scenario, however no neighbour can see a women’s distress and no one else can help. Women and girl children suffer silently inside their houses. Lockdown may be controlling the spread of virus but it could not prevent men dominating and controlling women. Lockdown could not wiped violent ugly behavior of man.

In a first phase of Covid-19 related Lockdown, on last week of March 2020 Indian women filed more complaints of abusive behaviour inside home than recorded in a similar period in the last 10 years. First week of Lockdown period, the National Commission of women received 58 domestic violence complaints. Since January, they have received 861 domestic violence cases already. But even this surprising is only glimpse of something as 86 per cent women who experience domestic violence do not seek help in India. The pandemic and lockdown in 2020, between March 25 and May 31 1,477 complaints of domestic violence were made by women. This 68 days period recorded more complaints than those received between March and May in the previous 10 years (Bose: 2020).

In India among the 14.3 per cent of victims who look for help only 7 per cent reached out to the appropriate authorities, the police, doctors, lawyers or social service organizations. But more than 90 per cent of the victims sought help only from their immediate family (The Hindu, June: 2020).

About 86 per cent women who experienced violence never sought help, and 77 per cent of the victims did not even mention the incidents to anyone. Caged in violent homes, with no contact from outside world, the victims are being placed in the situation where it is difficult to seek help or support from outside world. Women and girls aged 15-49 have been subjected to sexual and physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the previous 12 months (UNDP: 2020).

Type of

Violence – Never told – Told

Physical – 79.05 – 9.0

Sexual – 80.06 – 9.05

Physical&Sexual – 61.3 – 9.9

Total – 76.6 – 9.01

(Source: Radhakrishnan et al.: 2020)

(For better visual of this chart please see the PDF version of this content: Editor)

Clearly, the lockdown has brought on a surge in reporting of domestic violent cases. Domestic Violence shelters are reaching capacity, or unable to take new victims due to Lockdown and social distancing measures. In other cases they are being re-purposed to server as health centres.

However, restricting freedom of movement and imposing social distancing measures both adolescent girls and women are at a heightened risk of experiencing gender based violence during this time because the economic and social stress caused by the lockdown has exacerbated the patriarchal norms and gender inequality that cause gender based violence. Therefore, COVID-19 did not bring domestic violence. It only recreated conditions for an underlying problem to worsen, (Higgins: 2020).

In addition to sending strong message that violence will not be tolerated, government and civil society actors should also emphasis perpetors will be punished. Collaborate with civil society organization including local women’s organizations, create a space to support most vulnerable women and girls through emergency support fund. Therefore financial support is crucial to support survivors of gender based violence during pandemic because it encourages them to report cases to the police without fear for their own livelihood and health.

Policy Recommendations

Globally, women have always suffered during economic and public health crisis. Past experience shows that both rural women and urban women are disproponately affected by health and economic crisis in a number of ways, including but not limited to food security and nutrition, poverty, access to health facilities, services and economic opportunities, and gender based violence etc. Policymakers need to incorporate a gender analysis into the development of COVID-19 policies and as the pandemic unfolds, there is urgent need for sex-disaggregated data to fully understand how women and men are affected by the virus (Europa: 2020).

Understanding the impact of lockdowns on women and girls could lead to the development and implementation of other effective policy measures. Similarly, assessing the gendered aspects of minimizing disruptions and maintaining supply chains for essential items is likely to lead to better outcomes for all, men and women.

COVID-19 has clearly shown that our Public Health infrastructure must be fortified, and this time, women’s mental health urgently needs to be a priority. Covid-19 has affected women much more profoundly. Public health system particularly at the primary and secondary care needs to be strengthened. To avoid the crisis, countries must adopt a gender inclusive policy planning and implementation to manage the corona virus pandemic.

In Jordan, UN Women’s partnership with World Food Programme (WFP) using Blockchain Technology to transfer money to women benefiting from UN women’s cash for work opportunities has allowed UN women to continue seamless and remote cash disbursement during the lockdown in refugee settings. UN women has launched a series of prevention campaign, women empowerment hubs, and learn new skills linked to livelihood and income generation as well as developing leadership skills (UN Women: July 2020)

Therefore, here are some aspects to keep in mind to reinforce the necessity of keeping gender need in the front and center of policy.

Directions for Future

As the 21st century is also known as the era of COVID-19 induced pandemic of mental illnesses, so Social and Economic Preparedness of this pandemic seeks global importance. Due care needs to be taken to erase the stigma associated with women strata and needs to be implemented by regular discussion with trained and specialist health care personnel by making task force and execution teams. Structured websites and toll free helpline numbers may be launched for alleviating psychological distress among the women section of society and family regarding this ongoing pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown us how a “virus” cans negatively impact our lives even in the 21st century and simultaneously made us realize that the greatest assets of Mankind are Love, Peace, Health, Ingenuity, and Knowledge.

Here despite the best efforts of the Government Both at the state level and Central Level. A large population such as ours cannot be hemmed in by official restriction or by the law enforcement agencies alone. We have to have willed to make changes in our personal behavior. However, the danger is far from over. The virus is nowhere near contaminated. This is why the number of people getting infected by the virus is greater than those who are recovering. It is only if we all work harmoniously as a society that we can save or civilization from the virus.

Conclusion

The Global outbreak of Covid-19 will become one of the defying moment of the 21st century. There is a huge uncertainty about how long this crisis will last and what damage it would do to the economy, livelihood of people and available of basic health services. As the world sees increased efforts to fight COVID-19 and impacts of COVID-19 grow ever clearer, the importance of creating gender-sensitive policies rises as well as women are vulnerable not just to the direct impact on their lives but increased rates of domestic violence and indirect socio-economic impacts such as economic insecurity, wage distribution, increased in burden of care as discussed under socio-economic impacts above. Their silent contribution remained invisible for a long. During the pandemic COVID-19 they have faced double marginalization. Within the communities, women are the most marginalised and it is necessary to hear their voices in the fight against Covid-19. These Vulnerabilities are further amplified for women live in complex emergency situation.

Humanitarian coordination mechanism facilitates and integrates rapid, effective and sustainable gender transformative recovery and equality. It is important to keep in mind that while women are disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 era, they are also active agents who have skills and experience that are vital, especially in times emergency. However government schemes should be reach them in the fight against Covid-19 with reference to protecting women.

References

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Citation:

Samantaray, Dr Priyadarsini, and Dr Upasana Borthakur, 2021, “COVID-19 and Women: Socio-Economic Issues and Concerns”, University Journal of Society, https://www.UniversityJournal.org/ujs/UJS2021V01N01C03/ (08.08.2021), accessed <date of accessed>

Submission Guideline: https://www.UniversityJournal.org/Submission/ 

Copyright Information: https://www.universityjournal.org/Copyright/  

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