One doesn’t need to be a feminist to understand that the outbreak of Covid-19 will have a profound affect on women – despite the fact that they are statistically less likely to die from the disease. Indeed, rather than just being a health risk, the disease can also, unfortunately, affect women socially and threaten to undo years of progress.
This pandemic heightens the risk to any women that is being subjected to domestic violence. Some women, for instance, are forced to stay in isolation with their abusers because they are restricted from staying with friends or other family members. At the height of the pandemic in China, the head of a women’s NGO was quoted by The Guardian stating that there was a 90% increase in domestic violence cases. Furthermore, abusers can also use the fear of contracting the disease as a psychological tool in their attempts to abuse and manipulate women and children. This can range from threatening to kick them out, as reported by OpenDemocracy, to actively threatening to give them the disease.
A potential long-term threat to women everywhere is one posed by a historical trend we need to avoid following. There is historical evidence that shows that after major global threats such as the world wars, governments have attempted to reinforce gender roles by proposing initiatives often aimed at “repopulating” nations ravaged by war or any other deadly event. In reality, such initiatives end up setting women back as, in the past, they were often encouraged by propaganda to play their part in rebuilding their nations – as though women are only good for child bearing and home caring. It was such policies that led to the “Baby Boom” in the United States in the aftermath of World War Two and provoked Simone de Beauvoir to lament over women’s apparent objectification when French President De Gaulle introduced a similar policy in France.
In hearing this case, many will be sceptical and argue that the reason for the seemingly increasing workload for women is due to the crisis at hand and that it is only temporary. People should realize that life, in these circumstances, cannot go on as normal. Right now humanity faces both a pandemic and a moral crisis as we all seek to survive and return to normality. Yet, if we are to get society back on track after the pandemic passes, then we must not ignore the plight of half of the global population.
In countries like Spain and France, people are actively standing up against domestic violence and coming up with ways to help abuse victims by partnering with pharmacies to help preserve the safety of young women. In French pharmacies, one only needs to say the codeword “mask19” to get help, according to CNN. Additionally, Nikkei Asian Review reports that Kasoku, a kind of asian AirBnB, started an initiative where people can seek refuge in isolation away from their partners. Such schemes help to give the power of choice back to women, in spite of the current chaotic global scene, as they can decide who to isolate with and when they feel they’re becoming unsafe with their partners.
In the end, these helpful programs started by people should set an example for all of us. We can not remain neutral, feign ignorance, or choose to overlook the increased burden on women and the unique threats they face in these times of Covid-19.