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COVID 19 Exacerbating Patriarchal Stereotypes
COVID 19 pandemic has brought great disruptions in multiple sectors. Economy, healthcare, working patterns, education etc are adapting to movement restrictions and lockdowns. This disruption induced adaptations have a great impact on women.
Evidence shows that patriarchal gender roles are deepening due to disruptions. This is resulting in setbacks to progress made in gender equality.
Deepening patriarchal stereotypes:
Unpaid care work is predominantly done by women in patriarchal societies. Globally, women and girls perform 75% of unpaid care and domestic work and in India this is 91%. Such work is not seen with respect and instead shown disdain as per stereotypes. COVID 19 is exacerbating this.
Additional burden on women for unpaid care work is being imposed due to following COVID responses:
- Lockdowns, school closures and presence of more family members at home increases domestic work.
- Home based personal healthcare for home quarantined family members, need constant monitoring and care.
- Online education needs parents to aid children in children with classes and assignments.
- Work from home increases the need for domestic care work.
- Avoidance of external domestic workers due to fear of infections. Resident Welfare organizations stopping them is an example. This prevents help to handle extra care burden.
- Elderly are most vulnerable to pandemic and need greater monitoring and care.
This reduces leisure time and personal care of women, resulting in reduced well being of women.
In addition, economic independence is negatively impacted due to pandemic:
- Sectors like tourism, hospitality, retail are large employers for women. But they are the most impacted by COVID with potential long term closures.
- Domestic work is a major employment source for urban women. Yet movement restrictions and infection fears have reduced this sector substantially
This leads to layoffs and reduction of opportunities. As a result, it pushes women back into domestic care work where they are financially dependent on men.
Declining incomes of households combined with patriarchal attitudes will impact women substantially:
- Reduction in investment of girl child education, nutrition, due to views that girl child education is not important.
- Reduction in spending on menstrual health, sexual and reproductive services, due to less priority given to such needs of women. This impacts the health of women.
- Increase in child marriages when girls are seen as a burden on incomes.
Hence COVID 19 can deepen gender inequalities.
Disruptions induced by COVID 19 have long term consequences for gender equality and well being of women. State response must be cognizant of this phenomena and take steps to promote gender equality.
Expansion of economic activities where women are predominant(healthcare services, textiles etc) must be undertaken. Further, health services must be delivered to women on priority basis. In addition, communities must be sensitized on the principle of sharing of domestic work. Only by taking such steps can we maintain the progress in achieving SDG(Sustainable Development Goal) – 5 of gender equality.
- Discuss the impact of COVID 19 on women? What steps must be taken to prevent the negative impact of pandemic on women and promote gender equality? [15 marks, 250 words]