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Corona Curfews and the restrictions imposed after the lockdowns have not only changed the life of every person of India but of everyone across the planet. Many jobs have been lost, many businesses shut, many starved, new kinds of businesses bloomed and some people were happy to work from home. This article is not about the few happy women who, for the first time, got the opportunity of working from home. None of the husbands contributed to the multiple home chores while they worked from home. It is about most women (adult and children) who faced the ill-effects this pandemic brought about. Their support system had also died down or got weakened. It is much later that the plight of such females came to light. Their problems couldn’t be quantified. It is only now that their voices are being heard and people like the Nobel Laureate, Nadia Murad have brought out the miseries of females living in confined conditions. A UN expert has said that the pandemic has brought 47 million more people into extreme poverty and their females are in high risk of trafficking.

The Victims and the Impact

Children 

Many children were badly affected. Their schools were shut and parents rendered jobless. These stay at home parents were frustrated and highly irritable. It resulted in:

Infants and Pregnant Ladies 

Many abortions of female foetuses at homes went unreported. Facilities of anesthesiologist were limited as they were managing the critical ICUs of Corona cases. Home deliveries increased and it became easier to kill and bury the unwanted female newborns as their neighbours remained confined to their homes.

Domestic violence

Brunt in the family was faced by the female child. Increased deployment in household chores.

Poor nourishment

Some girls were dependent on the mid-day which was wholesome and filling. Other families had little money to cook three meals a day. As usual, the mother and daughter had to make do with leftovers.

Education

Though children from all over the world have suffered in their studies the Indian girl child continues to have most losses. Majority of the middle-class girls and almost all girls from poor families did not own smartphones, iPods or computers. Lower pay or loss of jobs of parents meant that the smartphone was a luxury. Added problems were no or slow internet services in hinterlands. Hence, their one academic year appears to have been lost.

Trafficking and sexual violence

As over 50% of the sexual assault are perpetuated by close family members or family friends, the confined environment of the lockdowns/ Corona curfews made them much more vulnerable. Helplines either didn’t function or were helpless in providing police protection. The traffickers were quite active in this period as policemen were hard-pressed in ensuring containment zones security and catching mask offenders.

Migrant workers head home from New Delhi after the national lockdown took effect. P.C. NPR.org
Other Issues

The adult women faced following problems and challenges during the Pandemic/corona curfews

  • Job losses. Women were the first to be retrenched, especially daily wagers
  • Migration- Amongst the daily wagers who marched home, a large number were women, many with a small child. They were physically unfit to walk such long distances. Others were harassed at night stays and lack of toilets added to the misery.
  • Malnourishment- They continue to be satisfied with whatever food is available due to financial constraints.
  • Marital rape- This happened in nuclear families where some men had nothing to do the whole day and took out their sexual energy on their wives
  • Pregnancy and delivery were a big challenge- Prenatal care went missing. Asha workers were busy tracing contacts or even collecting swabs of corona suspects. High-risk pregnancy cases had difficulties due to the unavailability of doctors who were diverted to corona duties. Hospital deliveries became expensive due to additional costs of corona testing and PPE kit purchasing.
Way Ahead

The United Nations annual campaign, ‘Orange the World’ started from the 25th November to 10th December in order to highlight the challenges faced by females across the world. The theme this year is, ‘Elimination of violence against women’. In India, the iconic Gateway of India at Mumbai is lit up and activism to attain the goals are being conducted.

Gateway of India in Mumbai lit up in orange as part of 16 Days of Activism. PC: UN Women.org

Peace at home is an important message for these times but so much more can be done. Some actions are mandatory to Prevent, respond and secure.

  • Helplines. These shouldn’t stop, no matter what happens. They save lives.
  • Shelters. Victims of abuse need a shelter with visiting doctors and counsellors.
  • Law. The police and the judiciary need to be empathetic towards the victims of violence, rape and trafficking.
  • Data shows the magnitude of the problem and how much more needs to be done.
What We Could do to help?
  • Listen to victims and believe them.
  • Understand their silence by observing signs of abuse.
  • Starting conservation by indirect means.
  • Understanding consent of females. NO or SILENCE DOESN’T MEAN CONSENT.
  • Bollywood needs to change.
  • Call for a response from like-minded people of the neighbourhood.
  • Hold the people responsible.
  • Stand against eve-teasing and rape culture.
  • If junior police officials don’t help, approach senior police officers/ lawyers.
  • An excellent idea is to start neighbourhood WhatsApp groups. It is a way to prevent instances and to respond as a group. Such actions instil fear in the minds of perpetrators.
  • Financing organisations dealing with women’s empowerment as much as we can. Those who are employers shouldn’t retrench women employees. Governments must ensure the availability of smartphones to girl students of post-primary classes.

Those lucky few women who survived the corona crises with understanding parents, husbands and children need to think about the vast majority who continue to suffer. They need a helping hand………. Perhaps, Yours.

Women supporting women P.C. National Herald India

Think about it, your hand may be the one which changes a life or many lives!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies

Major General Krishan Chauhan

By Major General Krishan Chauhan

Maj Gen Krishan Chauhan (Retd) Army Medical Corps., is the alumni of Sainik School Kapurthala, IG Medical College Shimla and AFMC Pune. Part of PG Community Medicine. He is a fellow of the Indian Public Health Association. He was part of core groups in establishing ECHS and ACMS Delhi. He was Addl DGMS Army prior retirement.