Coronavirus: Should We Take A Feminist Analysis Serious?
March 28, 2020
Covid-19 is an unexpected epidemic. From being an epidemic, it became a global pandemic. It currently affects 119 countries and an international conveyance – the princess cruise ship. These include every continent in the world except Antarctica. According to Worldometers.info, there are 1,796,013 cases, 110,012 deaths, and 411,997 recoveries across the world. Based on this website, the United States currently has the highest cases and death rates. Public health experts predict an increase in the number of deaths and infections in the coming weeks. However, what is surprising about the analysis of the pandemic is the lack of gender-based analysis. No one is thoroughly given a landscape for understanding how women and men fair in this situation. In retrospect, to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Julia Smith alluded to the fact that gender-based evaluation was missing at the outset of cushioning the effect of the epidemic. Invariably, it could be assumed that gender-based analyses are not considered relevant in addressing epidemic and pandemic outbreaks.
As such, evaluating the impact of this pandemic on women and girls is highly important. The impact the virus now has on the world’s economy brings the gender-dimension of the crisis up-close. The crash in stock market prices in the past weeks, fall in oil prices, and travel ban across nations possibly reflects an impending doom on the world market. Speculatively, a global recession knocks. Of which, most nations might find it difficult to grapple with the after-effects of the pandemic. In which, women and girls are more hit than men. This is because they make the largest population of the world’s care sector both as mothers and caregivers.
Moreover, schools and companies are currently shut down in most nations. Primary and secondary (or high school) education are on hold; Universities engage in online education (although not in every nation as it is the case in Nigeria where university teachers are on strike); and employees in the corporate and private sectors work from home. As a result, the care job of women increases. According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OEDC), women engage in 76.2% of the unpaid care work more than three times what men do in the home. Presently, women have increased hours of cooking and cleaning and coupled with the peculiarities of the virus which demands a high level of cleanliness. Due to global lockdown, the Indian middle-class women now lament the burden of home-care and work from home without their maids.
The burden of family care could be lighter on professional dual-earner families than on single parents (who are mostly women) and unprofessional earner families. Full-time employees in the public and private sectors would not be deprived of their earning and purchasing power. Unfortunately, for service workers and small scale sellers managing the homefront would be difficult. For instance, in Ibadan Nigeria, the populace is yet to adhere to the social distance and outing ban of the state government. This is because most of the people on the streets are unprofessional workers whose earnings are derived from daily business transactions. For women who fall into this category of unprofessional workers, the challenge is real. Also, women make the largest population of the unprofessional labor sector in the world. It could be unheard of, but some people now feed on empty stomachs as the crisis persists. Even women in rural communities across the world are at risk of hunger and health challenges.
Even though the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention noted that men and women experienced the disease at an equal rate, Chinese researchers’ findings show that men are more prone to contracting the disease and have a high risk of dying from the disease than women. This is because women have high immunology and lower smoking rates. This could probably mean that women have a higher chance of surviving the disease than men do. However, without encompassing data that state this fact, it is impossible to validate this evidence as a general outlook of women across the world. For instance, researchers’ evaluation of the Ebola outbreak in West African nations shows that women are more prone to transmitting the diseases due to their role as primary caregivers – mothers and health practitioners. Also during the Ebola crises, women experienced miscarriages and had less access to birth control while teenage girls recorded an increase of unwanted pregnancies.
Overall, a feminist lens could help nations to understand gender (irrespective of what gender) susceptibility to the virus and to address poverty and other social issues. Therefore, in combating nCovid-19, no stones must be left unturned. Beyond relief funds and social distancing/self-isolation measures, there is a dire need for gender-based analysis of its evolvement.