Women’s Safety amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

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COVID-19 and people

September Analysis

The effect of the global pandemic does not discriminate between any class, caste, gender, or age. However, the vulnerable group endures its impact differently in the social sphere. The implications of COVID-19 go beyond the health of an individual and include economic, social, mental implications as well. The global crisis has deepened society’s impoverishment, which has further given rise to myriad social problems such as domestic violence, sexual exploitation, labor exploitation, and cybercrimes. Unfortunately, women usually are at the receiving end of all social issues. Especially in the patriarchal social structure, women are always the ones to suffer more during a crisis or otherwise. It is quite evident with several instances in the past few months; the pandemic has doubly hit women in many different ways.

Domestic Violence

The country was under a complete lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 from March 24 to June 15, 2020, to contain the virus. The lockdown compelled the women in an abusive household to confine themselves with their abusive partners within the four walls. There was no a proper redressal mechanism in place in the initial phase of the lockdown, leaving no recourse to the women living in a harsh environment. It exposed women to a higher risk of physical and sexual exploitation every day. Nepal was already fighting against gender-based violence; the COVID crisis has further fostered violence against women in the lockdown. The reported domestic violence cases have risen drastically in the last few months since the beginning of the lockdown.[1] National Women Commission has stated that they received 1,267 complaints from the Gender-based violence survivors.[2]

Moreover, Achham has reported a surged number of domestic violence cases. As per the police, owing to the pandemic returnee’s migrant workers from various countries are jobless and indulge in alcohol consumption and assault their wives at home.[3] During the lockdown period, 39 domestic violence cases were reported in Achham.[4]

Rising crimes against women

Along with significant escalation in domestic violence cases, other crimes against women have also risen exponentially. Women’s safety has forever been an issue in Nepal, where the culture of victim-blaming and shaming is highly prevalent. A 17-year-old rape victim committed suicide because the Panchayat in the village prevented her from reporting the crime to the police. They compelled the victim to dispose of the matter without approaching the Court, as disclosing the case in public would stain their reputation and bring disgrace in the community.[5]

Rape has significantly increased in the past few months; women and girls are not safe even inside their homes, let alone the security issue outside their houses. The lockdown has further made women and girls experience the worst forms of sexual violence from familiar people. Intrafamilial sexual abuse has come out to be a pressing issue during the lockdown. For instance, police arrested a 40-year-old man, resident of New Baneshore, repeatedly raping his seven-year-old daughter for seven months.[6] The incident got disclosed after the victim told her mother about the pain in her private parts.[7] In such cases, victims are more helpless when they fall prey to sexual abuse by their family members. The victim’s traumatic experience takes a tremendous toll on their mental, emotional, and physical health as well.

Moreover, the government has failed to ensure safe isolation centers for women. A 31-year old woman in Kailali district was raped in the isolation center by the volunteers working there.[8] The government has neglected to take account of women’s issues and failed to provide safe women-friendly quarantines. Women have to fight for their basic human rights.

Reproductive health

The COVID-19 pandemic has majorly hit maternity health; pregnant women and postpartum mothers are more vulnerable. Reproductive health is highly compromised in this unprecedented time. The increasing maternity death rate in the past few months are concerning. Especially in rural areas, women do not have access to hospitals and health care services. Eighty-five pregnant women have lost their lives due to non-institutional childbirth, unable to access hospital timely, Covid-19 induced anxiety, and complications during delivery, especially in rural areas.[9] Lack of prenatal and postnatal care has also led to a hike in maternal mortality and caused infant mortality. Besides, women are deprived of access to family planning services and other aspects of reproductive health.[10]

In two months, Banke district has reported seven maternity mortality cases. District Health Office states that the causes of deaths are irregular and lack of proper on-time treatments during pregnancy and post-delivery.[11] Furthermore, the hospitals refusing to admit pregnant women who urgently need health services led to a pregnant woman’s death in Biratnagar.[12] Women are losing their lives due to denial of their reproductive rights.

Pandemic underlining gender disparity

The COVID crisis has amplified the existing gender-inequality in society. Women are bearing the brunt of the global pandemic. The employment of women has stumbled more as compared to men since the beginning of the crisis. Thus, women have been more prone to human trafficking because of their circumstances created by the pandemic.[13] This has become an opportunity for traffickers to bait women by promising to provide jobs.

In addition to this, women are entrusted with more household responsibilities. They are expected to be caregivers in the family. The enforcement of lockdown has doubled the burdens on the shoulder of women. The pandemic has reinforced Nepali households’ gender roles due to their allegiance to the deep-seated patriarchal norms. This has further fostered gender disparity in seeking education. In Nepal, a survey conducted by a Room to Read Nepal has found that 279 girls out of 3,992 girls from 11 districts said they would be unable to re-join the school once it resumes. [14]

Conclusion

Women’s issues are often trivialized and received with little attention. Women have to fight for their fundamental rights. Moreover, the disparity between the genders is not a new phenomenon. Our social structure is such that it always puts women in a more vulnerable position. It appears that more than the pandemic, it is the social behaviour towards women that has majorly caused them to suffer more than ever during this stressful time. The COVID crisis has merely unravelled the bleak realities of society.


[1] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/violence-against-women-along-with-covid-19-another-crisis-is-taking-place-in-nepal.html

[2] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/women-children-highly-affected-by-covid-pandemic/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR1NEdIrO0xGsFeoAOLWmQRFLwf99C2Daj5ZeAJFVSsXw2JshHqJSq43Buk#Echobox=1600658352

[3] https://kathmandupost.com/sudurpaschim-province/2020/09/21/cases-of-violence-against-women-have-gone-up-in-achham?fbclid=IwAR0G0nCdYR8s3mct1_N0Blr53fE0O8z_dXswV1q5HgwHz-q-SLCuPysXlWM

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://kathmandupost.com/province-no-2/2020/09/17/teenage-rape-victim-in-saptari-took-her-own-life-after-being-forced-into-out-of-court-settlement?fbclid=IwAR2id8qyAnMHJk27Sr-3b-UHFpWR6hiAnibNZ0MP1Mj81ui3xOWznaVhuVc

[6] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/kathmandu-man-arrested-for-repeatedly-raping-7-yr-old-daughter.html?fbclid=IwAR1kS_7UJBhMnz6TASrJ_fQoeDGppLkLiFJh5wxwiOrF2cgcD417QKmwfKg

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/three-arrested-in-connection-with-kailali-quarantine-gang-rape-lamkichuha-suspends-quarantine-services/

[9] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/09/10/many-mental-health-patients-deprived-of-medication-and-counselling-during-pandemic?fbclid=IwAR1evvj09NpsEuzrbIT_B3Nmn4HxBTJrNDiT0LwYAE2nu2g0FW-S8OivGTw

[10] Ibid.

[11] https://kathmandupost.com/province-no-5/2020/09/22/pregnant-women-and-postpartum-mothers-hit-hardest-by-covid-19-pandemic?fbclid=IwAR20P0nsZPycFNFO0ob8cgr2ylq_nab7zB_7_WghvKjFRp4ikJrS1dB4Duo

[12] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/pregnant-woman-dies-in-search-of-medical-facility/

[13] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/human-trafficking-continues-unabated-amidst-covid-pandemic/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR3goQVzeko3ogMrn0f18f23aXKiok_MXuTjLgMTItBbhIXQb3k4VXOxlSU#Echobox=1599371386

[14] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/08/26/gender-inequality-in-education-has-widened-during-pandemic?fbclid=IwAR2ry0eJ2zEFUfLWwHKproK80ZoTfmLN7MsbNynbJheBOZvLXO00AC0I0T0

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