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Preserving Gender and Social Justice in Times COVID
COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented health and socio-economic crisis across the globe. It threatens the progress made in SDG’s as we enter the decade of action. While short to medium term impact on health and economy are evident, long term socio-economic impact with gender implications must be understood.
Pandemic has increased the existing socio-economic inequalities. Crisis is more acute for disadvantaged groups. These groups include – Women and girls; adolescents; sexual and gender minorities(LGBTQI); elderly; Persons with Disabilities(PwD’s) and people from low income and socially marginalized backgrounds .
Impact on women and girls:
Sexual and reproductive health(SRH): SRH services(contraceptives; pregnancy services) are disrupted due to the health crisis and movement restrictions.
- Availability of contraception has reduced due to disruption of supply chains
- In addition mobility restrictions and apprehension of infections have resulted in women not seeking SRH services and accessing contraceptives.
- Due to disruption to normal health services like pregnancy care, MMR(Maternal Mortality Rate) is expected to increase.
These will result in an increase in unintended pregnancies(7 million estimate) and rise in total fertility rate. This is against the right of women to control fertility and vision of population control. Hence SRH services must be provided uninterrupted.
Gender based violence: Increased time spent in home has seen rise in cases of domestic violence. The National Commission of Women reported rise in calls of distress. Hence services which address this violence must not be interrupted. Civil society and state institutions must ensure that vulnerable women are rescued and rehabilitated.
To address these issues, vision of gender rights enshrined in Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1979), International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD, 1994) and Beijing Declaration(1995) must guide our response.
Impact on adolescents:
- Prolonged closure of schools, along with severe economic stress at the household level, may find many girls forced into child marriage.
- With closure of schools, access to sexual education will reduce. This can result in unintended teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
- Lack of social connectivity and limited social support can increase the risk of stress and mental health issues
- Lack of peer contact can hinder development of life skills and abilities learned through socialization like team work.
Hence there is a need for targeted interventions in imparting knowledge and developing life skills to support youth. In addition, vigil must be stepped up to prevent child marriages.
Impact on elderly:
Elderly are impacted by pandemic directly and indirectly.
- They are the most vulnerable section to the pandemic related deaths.
- Disruption in normal health care services to elderly threatens their lives and worsens age related morbidities.
- Social isolation, lack of family and community support even for basic necessities will worsen their physical and mental health
Considering this, health services and essential services like food, water, pension must be provided on a priority basis to the elderly
Impact on health care workers:
Being the frontline in the fight against the COVID, healthcare workers have emerged as vulnerable sections. Women make up a large proportion of these workers making gender dimension more important.
- They need access to psychosocial supportto handle the immense stress of providing care to intense, continued suffering, and for the sense of inadequacy and guilt they feel when they lose patients after giving everything to save them.
- Protection against stigma and discriminationfrom family and community members is needed. Evictions from rental homes and restrictions must be prohibited.
- Adequate protective equipment(masks, gloves, PPE etc) is needed to protect these frontline workers from the pandemic
- Social security in terms of insurance to life in case of COVID related deaths of medical workers is needed.
These needs must be satisfied to enable our “Corona warriors”.
COVID 19 has proved the collective vulnerability of all in the face of the crisis. Hence the principle of “We are all in this together” must inform our actions. By transcending socio-economic divisions, empathy and compassion must be shown towards vulnerable and larger community. We must “Build Back Better” by ensuring social justice and gender equality, to secure rights and choices for all.
- Vulnerable sections are most affected by COVID 19. Discuss this impact and ways to ensure gender and social justice? [15 marks, 250 words]