It has now been more than a year since the coronavirus 2019 appeared in Wuhan in Hubei province and then spread around the world. Governments have generally taken restrictive measures to stop the spread of the virus. The problem is that these restrictions will affect human rights in general. However, the repercussions will have a more serious impact on vulnerable people, especially women and girls.
A Pandemic with More Serious Impacts for Women and Girls
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting women at different levels.
First, since the beginning of the epidemic, there has been an increase in violence against women and girls. Indeed, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recognized that the current crisis is accompanied by such a resurgence of violence against women that we can speak of a “pandemic within the pandemic”. It is a question of the increase in so-called domestic violence but more generally the increase in sexist violence.
Also, at the United Nations General Assembly meetings, Israel notes that women at this time do not have access to sexual and reproductive health care. Indeed, overcrowded hospitals combined with travel restrictions make sexual and reproductive health services less accessible.
In addition, women suffer more severely from the effects of the economic crisis because their access to financial resources is more difficult and they often hold precarious jobs in the informal sector.
Finally, they are under-represented at the level of national management teams related to COVID-19 response and are therefore excluded from the decision-making system.
The search for solutions and opportunities to reduce gender inequalities.
The current crisis is indeed having a definite impact on women, but we can observe that it has created certain opportunities. Firstly, it has been highlighted during this crisis that women and girls have borne the disproportionate burden of care. Thus, this finding could allow the valorization of this work.
Second, States, aware of the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, are working to expand access to these services. This could have a lasting effect on the exercise of women’s and girls’ right to health.
Then, with regard to solutions, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, recommended placing human rights at the heart of plans and policies. This begins with the involvement of women in the planning and decision-making phases of health crisis management. Secondly, it requires the support of organizations working for the access of women and girls to basic services and the protection of their rights. Next, gender-based violence must be addressed by strengthening prevention and protection services, hotlines and access to reliable information. Finally, unpaid care work performed by women must be recognized, the gender wage gap must be reduced, and fiscal and social protection policies must be adapted. This would allow for the economic empowerment of women and thus avoid the feminization of poverty.