The only break from physical and verbal abuse Jane* usually gets is when her husband leaves home at 7 a.m. for work. Each morning Jane is relieved when the door closes behind him, and in the afternoon she shores herself up for his return. Now, under lockdown, what Jane describes as “torment” is never-ending.
“I would count down the minutes until he left,” she says. “Now, he’s here all the time. I constantly walk on eggshells. I honestly don’t know how much longer I can take it.”
Jane isn’t alone.
Under lockdown, women around the world are forced to stay in unsafe homes with abusive partners or parents. Closures of social service agencies means that services for survivors of gender-based violence are harder to access. In some parts of the world, violence against women is perpetrated by security agencies enforcing lockdowns.
In a recently published statement, “Gender, Faith and COVID-19” (see link in Rebuilding a Just World), ACT Alliance, a coalition of 135 churches and church organizations across the world that includes The United Church of Canada, says women and girls are the hardest hit by the virus. The organization calls on all governments to assess the gender-based impact of the pandemic so they can develop strategies to respond.
The role of women in caregiving is one of the many serious issues ACT raises. Across the globe, the majority of healthcare workers and caregivers are women, making them most susceptible to COVID-19.
“The ‘domestic’ workforce, where women make up 70%, are more likely to be part of the frontline response. We advocate to our governments for coordinated responses that are sensitive to the needs of women and girls, where unpaid caregivers and community health workers are provided with adequate training, equipment, and livelihood support to respond effectively and keep themselves and their families safe,” the report reads.
“She-cession” is the new term for the gender-based economic downtown precipitated by the virus. In many cases, the pandemic intensifies existing problems.
In a blog post, “Gendered Impacts of Coronavirus,” the Canadian Women’s Foundation reports that, in Canada, women carry more unpaid housework and caregiving responsibilities than men, including child and elder care. With school closures, women have to take on even more caregiving. Since women in general already earn less than men and are more likely to have part-time or precarious jobs, the current work interruptions have a greater impact on them.
Aware of the global impact of the COVID-19 virus on women, ACT Alliance encourages governments to not only respond to the immediate needs of women and girls but also to plan for the future: “Governments must plan and resource [their] response for the long term as the impacts will continue long after we have tackled the virus.”
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*Jane’s name has been changed to protect her identity.