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  • Pamela Shoraj

How The Pandemic has Affected Women

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone globally. From an individual’s health, to a person’s income, everyone has and is affected differently. Varying from race, to gender and a nation's wealth has left nearly everyone in a devastated position some more than others. This article will be discussing how women are affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this time of COVID-19, there has been an increase of violence towards women across the globe. And the underlying cause is due to patriarchy, in which several relationships in social, political and economic systems structure gender equality between men and women.

To be begin with, one such proof would be intimate terrorism. During lockdown, homes have turned into an unsafe place for millions of women globally. Such as digital sexual abuse is now central to domestic violence as intimate partners threaten to share sexually explicit images with no consent from the victim. With the rules of lockdown, confinement and stay-at-home orders, home isolation resulted in a surge of women being abused. It’s shocking to see that in 2021, thousands of men still feel willing and entitled to control, torture and beat their wives, girlfriends and children. It also seems that no government appears to have thought about this in their planning for lockdown.

In Peru, hundreds of women and girls have gone missing since lockdown was imposed, and are feared dead. According to the numbers reported by Al Jazeera, 606 girls and 309 women went missing between 16 March and 30 June last year. In which this raises high concerns for the women and girls in the country. This also affects people worldwide, the closure of schools has increased the likelihood of various forms of violence. In Canada, reports of domestic violence continue to rise. Canada's Assaulted Women's Helpline fielded 20,334 calls between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, compared to 12,352 over the same period the previous year, said Yvonne Harding, manager of resource development at the organization. It’s just as bad in Europe. In Italy, calls to the national anti-violence toll-free number increased by 73% between 1 March and 16 April 2020, according to the activist Luisa Rizzitelli. And in South America, Mexico, the calls to their domestic hotlines have surged and the number of women who sought domestic violence shelters have quadrupled.

In addition to this, many governments globally have reduced the funding for these shelters at the exact moment they were most needed. This seems to be true in Alaska and throughout Europe. In Alaska, the government would decrease their funding from 34.6% from the previous year which is 20% of their full annual operating budget. This unfortunately would leave the Tundra’s Women's Coalition (TWC) having to cut its number of advocates. As for Europe, in the UK, providers told Human Rights Watch that the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated a lack of access to services for migrant and Black, Asian and minority ethnic women. The organisations working with these communities say that persistent inequality leads to additional difficulties in accessing services such as education, healthcare and disaster relief remotely.

In Canada, reports say that from March 2020 to February 2021, women accounted for 53.7% of year-over-year employment losses. Women, who already don’t earn as much as their male counterparts, sadly are bearing the brunt of the job losses as they made up a majority of the workforce in hard-hit sectors like hospitality, retail and food. Most of them are not bothering to come back. Meanwhile, for men, the number is ten times smaller. Furthermore, the rate of unemployment for Black and Latina women was higher before the virus, currently it is even worse. However, if women do work it would add $100 billion to Canada’s GDP.

The situation is more severe for women in other parts of the world. Shabnam Hashmi, a leading women’s activist from India, says that in April 2020 a staggering 39.5% of women there had lost their jobs. “Work from home is very taxing on women as their personal space has disappeared, and workload increased threefold,” Hashmi says. In Italy, existing inequalities have been amplified by the health emergency. Rizzitelli points out that women already face lower employment, poorer salaries and more precarious contracts, and are rarely employed in “safe” corporate roles; they have been the first to suffer the effects of the crisis. “Pre-existing economic, social, racial and gender inequalities have been accentuated, and all of this risks having longer-term consequences than the virus itself.”

As women are put under greater financial pressure, their rights erode and their situation becomes increasingly difficult to sustain themselves during the pandemic. With the economic crisis created by Covid, sex- and labour-trafficking are again on the rise. Young women who struggle to pay their rent are being preyed on by their landlords, in a process known as “sextortion”.

Women as nurses or healthcare workers are also suffering the most globally. “The level of exhaustion, anxiety and fear that women are suffering from taking care of families, with no break or time for themselves. It’s a subtle form of madness. As women take care of the sick, the needy and the dying, who takes care of them?” Colani Hlatjwako, an activist leader from the Kingdom of Eswatini, says: “Social norms that put a heavy caregiving burden on women and girls remain likely to make their physical and mental health suffer.” These structures also impede access to education, damage livelihoods, and strip away sources of support.

What is even worse is that girl’s education is at risk. As Unesco estimates that upward of 11 million girls may not return to school once the Covid pandemic subsides. The Malala Fund estimates an even bigger number: 20 million. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, from UN Women, says her organisation has been fighting for girls’ education since the Beijing UN women’s summit in 1995. Devastatingly, girls make up the mass majority of schoolchildren who are not returning to school. Out of all the setbacks, education is the most devastating. Because as girls are educated, they know their rights, as well as what to demand. They have the possibility of getting jobs, taking care of their families, and becoming financially independent. And when girls do not have access to education, they become a financial strain to their families and are often forced into early marriages.

As a result, this leads to female genital mutilation (FGM). Commonly, fathers will accept not subjecting their daughters to FGM because their daughters can become breadwinners through being educated. However, if there is no education, then the traditional practices resume. All so that daughters can be sold for dowries. Because of Covid closing down schools and bringing girls home no one knows what could possibly happen except for knowing that FGM will most likely happen.

The treatment of nurses- especially in the U.S who were risking their lives to save lives was a shocking kind of violence and disrespect. But there are many other areas of work where women have been left unprotected, from the warehouse workers who are packing and shipping our goods, to women who work in poultry and meat plants who are crammed together in dangerous proximity and forced to stay on the job even when they are sick. One of the more stunning developments has been with “tipped” restaurant workers in the U.S, already allowed to be paid the shockingly low wage of $2.13 an hour, which has remained the same for the past 22 years. Not only has work declined, tips have also declined greatly for those women, and now a new degradation called “maskular harassment” has emerged, where male customers insist waitresses take off their masks so they can determine if and how much to tip them based on their looks.

Throughout covid, it has revealed that firstly, women are essential to every aspect of life. Secondly, women can be easily violated, sacrificed and erased. To clarify, the issue isn’t the lockdowns, however, it is the lockdowns and the pandemic that required them have made these imminent issues occur. Therefore, unless the culture changes globe-wide, this endless cycle of women being oppressed will still continue.


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