Further Burdened: Women and the Pandemic in Pakistan

10.13.2020 | Articles | Dr. S Akbar Zaidi

The multiple normalized burdens on women – from social and so-called ‘cultural’ ostracization and exclusion, patriarchal norms which discriminate simply on the basis of gender, economic and political marginalization and discrimination, and issues of gender violence, to name just a few – were all considerably magnified during the coronavirus pandemic. At minimum, psychologists in Pakistan and elsewhere have noted that women now “have had to disproportionately bear a triple burden of work: increased household work with everyone at home, increased and constant caretaking responsibilities (including coronavirus patients), and home schooling of children (including learning and managing new technology).”[1] It is also feared that domestic abuse and gender based violence have increased in a “horrifying surge.”[2] This surge would add to the existing “70 to 90 percent of women [who] experience some form of physical, emotional or psychological abuse from an intimate partner” in Pakistan.[3] With pre-pandemic domestic and gender-based violence already approaching catastrophic proportions, the pandemic lockdown means that the perpetrators of that violence – men – are now also locked-out of their offices and public spaces and are locked-in at home. Women and girls therefore face the brunt of far worse oppression, given (male) frustration, loss of male and family income, and other situational changes.

[1] Farahnaz Zahidi, “Unsafe at home,” The News, August 20, 2020 https://www.thenews.com.pk/magazine/you/700989-unsafe-at-home

[2] Scott Neuman, “Global Lockdowns Resulting in ‘Horrifying Surge’ In Domestic Violence, UN Warns,” NPR, April 6, 2020 https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/06/827908402/global-lockdowns-resulting-in-horrifying-surge-in-domestic-violence-u-n-warns

[3] “Gender and Pandemic Urgent Call for Action,” UNODC, https://www.unodc.org/documents/pakistan/Advocacy_Brief_4_Gender_-COVID-19-Punjab.pdf