|MEDICINE AND SOCIETY
|Year : 2023 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 71-73
Gender inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic in India
Boppana Sujwal1, Kumbha Gopi2, Bimal Kumar Sahoo2, Debkumar Pal2, Manish Taywade2
1 MBBS Intern, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
2 Department of Community Medicine and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
|Date of Submission||30-Jul-2022|
|Date of Decision||15-Dec-2022|
|Date of Acceptance||26-Dec-2022|
|Date of Web Publication||23-Feb-2023|
Dr. Manish Taywade
Department of Community Medicine and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Sujwal B, Gopi K, Sahoo BK, Pal D, Taywade M. Gender inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic in India. J Med Evid 2023;4:71-3
| Introduction|| |
Gender inequality is a multidimensional subject involving but not limited to physical, biological, health, occupational, social, educational, economic, cultural and political inequality against a particular gender may be a male or a female. In contrast, most of these inequalities arise from the norms followed in due course of the progression of civilisation. Still, like the biological dimension, some can be termed as just a difference instead of inequality as it is genetically determined. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a steady increase in the cries of society regarding the rise of domestic violence against women. Furthermore, many articles claim that there has been amplification in gender inequality. Is it an amplification that we see or just an unearthing of the defects in a social structure, just like we have observed the same in health infrastructure that is hanging with the help of a thread?
| Indian Scenario|| |
India has always been perceived as a poster state of globalisation, but it seems like a poor player in many facets of gender equality in the international community. Even in India, there are differences at the state level. Kerala has the lowest gender inequality in education and health. Let us see some statistics about gender inequality in India.
- Global Gender Gap Index: This includes economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival. In 2020, India was ranked 112 out of 153 countries. Populous countries such as India and Mexico perform below average and reduce the global average result. India is the only country with a wider economic gender gap in comparison with the political gender gap with the 150th rank in the health and survival dimension. Furthermore, the progression of the index from previous years is not at all commendable, whereas India was on 98 in 2006
- Global Inequality Index: This index includes the dimension of maternal health, political involvement, educational status and economic status; it is published along with the Human Development Index. According to the index in 2018, India is ranked 129.
These indexes showcase numbers and explain phenomena like the 'missing girl phenomenon.' Many research works have highlighted female feticide, differences in health-care expenditure between genders and various others which give birth to gender inequality in India like the economy, culture, education, etc.,,
| Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic|| |
The previous outbreaks of infectious diseases indicate that women and girls are far more affected than men in particular areas, mainly negatively. Let's divide the implications in the following way:
| Health|| |
The data from the countries majorly affected by COVID-19 suggest that the fatality of men is much higher than that of women. This may be due to a higher incidence of chronic conditions, lifestyle, tobacco use and immunological differences., However, the number of women getting infected may be higher due to their long life expectancy than males, making them the more significant proportion of the elderly. They form a substantial role as health-care providers such as nurses, Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) and birth attendants, making them devoid of their duties during the period of disease, causing them to lose one of the most important factors which makes them independent, that is occupation and even may experience severe symptoms of the infection mainly in the elderly.
As many health-care programmes are centred on women's health, there may be disruption at the grassroots level during this pandemic. Furthermore, it adds many barriers such as economy and transport, causing decreased health-seeking behaviour in women, which causes an increase in maternal mortality.
The nutritional status of the female may be affected during the pandemic as in many parts of India; the females in the house eat at last when the others in the family have completed their meals. There is a severe economic constraint in families that too in families of lower socioeconomic status, leading to even less intake of nutritious food by females.
The mental health of women is also severely affected due to increased domestic workload. On the one hand, child-care responsibilities increased due to the closure of schools; on the other hand, women working in health-care facilities suffered from fear of passing the infection to family members. Some women left their jobs due to the increased pressure of domestic work.
| Education|| |
There is already a significant difference in literacy rates between males and females. For example, in India in 2019, the urban literacy rate of males was 83.7%. For females, it is 74.8%; in rural India, it is 72.3%, and for females, it is 56.8% (published on International Literacy Day, 2019). During the pandemic, due to the closure of schools and colleges, there is increased online education-seeking behaviour among students. Due to existing inequalities in the use of technology like mobile and the Internet among females, which may even be increased due to ongoing economic crises which would limit their capacity for online learning. The closure of schools for a long time may even lead to an increase in permanent dropout percentage as the female child may be pressured to do household work or other domestic work to earn money, similar to what happened during the Ebola crisis. This poor educational attainment causes long-term effects on the lives of women and a steep increase in the gender gap.
| Economic Conditions|| |
Sex segregation in occupations will lead to differential economic impacts. The women employed in the informal sector and the female entrepreneurs form more than half of the proportion and are the hardest hit during this pandemic. Some of them are sent home without pay or social security, and some are devoid of work due to lockdown restrictions. The increased household responsibilities may also force them to leave their job. These reasons make the female lose the most critical factor responsible for gender equality: earning capacity. There may also be an increase in early or child marriages due to education and economic reasons.
| Domestic Violence and Abuse|| |
Women are at increased risk of domestic violence during epidemics. There was also a steep increase in complaints of sexual violence during the pandemic. Increased sexual violence may be due to increased stress, confinement, social isolation, inability to escape abusive partner, decreased access to helplines and family separation.
The number of teenage pregnancies may rise due to abuse or child marriages. These are all mainly due to decreased access to the Internet and lower awareness among females. There is also increased violence against female health-care providers due to stigmatisation.
| Discussion|| |
Having explored all the facets of gender inequality, let us discuss whether there is an amplification of several areas of gender discrimination or an exacerbation of pre-existing gender inequalities? The answer is both of them. To briefly describe it let us discuss the pre-existing and the new bias which is observed during the COVID-19 pandemic under each domain [Table 1].
|Table 1: Different domains of gender inequality and changes during COVID-19 pandemic|
Click here to view
Although this list is not extensive, it covers the leading grassroots causes of gender inequality during the pandemic. Through the above discussion, we can understand that it is the combination of pre-existing gender inequalities and the development of new ones causing a significant increase in the gender gap in society during the COVID-19 pandemic.
| Conclusion|| |
After stating all the facts and analysing those, my opinion is that this pandemic is having a significant impact on almost all aspects of life. While some groups are more affected than others, it is essential to know that this pandemic of COVID-19 is not gender blind, so specific programmes and measures should be taken centred on these groups. After all this, I can say that there is or let's hope there is, a silver lining which is helping these groups like many helpline numbers are being distributed to females in all possible manners like through rations, many of the females who lost their previous jobs are finding new ones like sewing cloth masks, sanitizer making and other cleaning products which are pertinent to the ongoing pandemic. Recently, we have seen the example of dedication and awareness of female child education even in lower socioeconomic strata. Hence, let's all hope that we will overcome this pandemic together, safe and sound.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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