Whenever a crisis strikes, the systemic inequalities make sure that the greatest brunt falls on the most vulnerable. The pandemic of Corona Virus is the first instance of lockdowns and the disruption of daily activities on such a scale in modern times. A life in confinement in homes has put forth a myriad variety of issues and problems within the private and public spheres. In this context, gender relations require attention as a significant chunk of daily life is restricted to the household. As a disease, Covid-19 affects women less severely than do the effects emerging from the responses to it. As the crisis acquired an economic and political form, the power relations between gender come into play.

This pandemic has thrown light on one of the most prominent concepts with regards to feminism: Care. As life has come to a halt for over more than two months, care inside the domain of the household has acquired prominence. The patients, the elderly, as well as children, require care. Day-care centres, as well as schools, have shut down and social distancing norms make non-family members look after the people unlikely. As confinement within the home has forced the looking after work to shift from the domain paid labour to the unpaid one, the burden of which falls extensively on women.

70% of children live with two parents in the US. A major chunk of childcare and home-schooling is taken up by women in these times, added to the burden of running the household as incomes have decreased considerably. In developed countries, women provide 70% of the hours for childcare in straight, married couples (Alon et al. 2020, pp 13-14).

The foundational understanding of care as an ethic reinforces it. The masculine predominance meant that women who failed to live out these normative theories were perceived to be morally under-developed. This notion impacts working as well as single mothers. In heterosexual households, as a result of the gendering and feminization of care, the duties typically fall upon the woman acting as a “mother”. The structure of the workforce, as well as societal norms, contribute in what Feminist theorizing is called the morality of care where the community is primary and caring for them is moral (Hughes 2002, p 127). And whenever there’s a conflict between the responsibilities, women see it as a moral dilemma.

Thus, this pandemic forces women into the unpaid labour of care in households, in a situation where ‘labour’ has halted. These circumstances also move the focus from non-Covid patients who need medical attention. The whole discourse of coronavirus belittles other ailments and even in the medical facilities. The burden thus again falls on the caretaker in the house. This situation also leads us to the private and public sphere of care (Hughes 2002, p 115). I believe, and I have witnessed, that the denial of medical care in the public domain doesn’t mean a rejection of providing care, but it merely changes the domain as it then operates in the private sphere. Looking after is valued when the providers are imbued with power, little attention is paid to consider care as labour when it happens in the private domain. While the loss of jobs is highlighted and featured in current affairs, we must also pay heed to the household labour as it has increased in these tumultuous times.

While the caregivers such as doctors and nurses receive the title of Corona Warriors, it points to the high value regarded to the care-giving in the public sphere. It exhibits how men involved in taking care acquire a case of exceptionalism, portrayed by the fact that doctors, the majority being males, are given higher status than nurses who are represented by women disproportionately. The unequal relationship in household labour contributes to gender inequality in the public sphere.

Behind this clamour of the pandemic, the concerns that are not related to the Covid-19 virus remain largely ignored. The vast majority of people lay in paranoia, and issues that don’t relate to coronavirus are left unattended as the pandemic engages the resources. The inequalities get compounded as different groups face unique challenges, and specific needs are de-prioritized.

These issues relate primarily to our country where the pandemic compounds with a migrant crisis. As nationwide lockdowns extended and means of transportation, as well as means of living, suspended, a large number of migrants began returning to their homes on foot. This migration included a lot of women labourers who did not find any reason to stay back as starvation was imminent in the absence of substantial State support. A large number of women, with their children, had to take up long distances on foot, without any social security. The plight of low-income groups is evident in the fact that many don’t have the luxury of spacious houses with facilities to remain confined in their homes. Numerous pieces of evidence suggest how difficult it is to manage large families with a single earning member cramped up in small spaces. Women are particularly affected by these circumstances as women are statistically proven to be more vulnerable to psychological strains and deterioration of overall mental health. An increased burden of household labour added to the paucity of distractions aggravate to mental health issues. However, among women, those belonging to socially disadvantaged groups find it harder compared to the affluent ones. The plight of women migrant labourers is in itself a case in point, how they differ from their male counterparts as well as the women belonging to better-off social groups. These differences, identified as a part of identity politics school, within the overtly homogenized and universal category of women, need attention (Hughes 2002, p 58).

A concept of time with clear cut distinctions of time and leisure is not available to a woman involved with managing the household. The idea of a break is different from the masculine understanding of continuous paid work, with clear cut separation between the two. They have to take breaks for childcare and household needs. Consequently, women at home are understood to be “out of time” (Hughes 2002, p 133). The reduction of working members of the family in Indian households, mostly males, to be confined to homes, working from home or otherwise has brought up a direct conflict of these two conceptions.

On one hand, as gender roles may show a shift by delegating of responsibilities, on the other hand, it has also led to increased instances of domestic violence against women. Due to the reduction in incomes and consequent frustrations, women have borne the brunt of these trying circumstances. These issues are being tackled in many places, though, e.g. In Spain’s Canary Islands, the Institute for Equality has launched a campaign called Mascarilla-19 (Mask-19), stressing that escaping abuse is a valid reason to leave your home. Pharmacies are widespread, and among the few places people can still freely visit. "When a woman experiences violence at home or sexual assault, she can go to the nearest pharmacy and request Mask-19 – the mask that will save her life,” says Kika Fumero, who came up with the idea. The pharmacy staff will note down the details of the woman such as name, address and phone number and alert the emergency services. She can either go back home or wait until police and support workers arrive (Oakley 2020).

A significant boost in the independence of women is by being financially independent. The global economic downturn caused by this crisis is likely to impact women more than men, unlike the crisis of 2008 and before. The feminization of labour in the services industry has led to an increased female workforce engage in the service sector, such as restaurants and hospitality (Akorsu 2016). In the UK, around 40% of women work part-time and are involved in insecure employment with low pay. These sectors are the ones which are hit hardest by the lockdowns (Lewis 2020). The outbreak has the jobs disproportionately represented by women, such as nurses, flight attendants, waitresses, etc., at the front line. And even when the jobs are secured, existing inequalities in labour with regards to childcare and household work may make them put in extra time at home, with leaving the job an option. Working from home would be more cumbersome as taking out time to fulfil child needs, and chores provide little time and focus for work. Earning losses caused by these circumstances may outlast the pandemic (Lewis 2020). The discourse of this pandemic has engulfed the attention given to other issues, and consequently, non-Covid patients suffer a great deal (“Suggestions for non-Covid Patients 2020). As health facilities remain busy and overworked, we see decreased access to medical services. Because financial resources are diverted to Covid response measures, people who depend upon subsidized medical care find it hard to cope up.

Complex underplay of demographic and cultural factors in gender relations has made women less vocal about exploitation, and work conditions and trade unions are dominated by men (Ong 1991). A supportive state is helpful for the women labour force as a vulnerable group, but the corona scare has made them exposed to uncertainty.

However, the crisis may harbinger beneficial changes in the realm of gender relations. Increased time spent at home may bring about changes in the labour division in the household in the couples. Many employers may get more sensitive to childcare needs and thus be more willing to provide child care leaves and adopt flexible time schedules. A family with more than two working members may put combined efforts in meeting demands of career and family. These changing norms may prove to be persistent over time. Another change that this particular ordeal would bring is the realization that all people do not suffer equally in a crisis. Still, the vulnerable are hit harder than others, bringing to the fore the existence of intersectionality. Environment, human rights, gender relations have to be taken care of under a crisis. All individually play a role in softening or hardening the blow.



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  2. Hughes, Christina. 2002. Key Concepts In Feminist Theory And Research. London: SAGE Publications.
  3. Lewis, Helen. “The Coronavirus is a Disaster for Feminism”. The Atlantic. (Accessed 7 June 2020).
  4. Oakley, Joanne. “Gender Violence Initiative Mascarilla-19 Helps Three Women Across Andulcia Since Launch”. Olive Press. (Accessed 8 June 2020).
  5. Ong, Aihwa. 1991. “The Gender and Labor Politics of Postmodernity.” Annual Review of Anthropology 20 (1991): 279-309. (Accessed 7 June 2020).
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