The moral traditions of India’s collectivistic culture have always seen women as the responsibility bearers in every aspect of life. They are expected to be sacrificing, nurturing, caring, and spread happiness everywhere they go. They have been taught to move on from the ills of society and smile even when they are broken. When men are told crying is for the weak, it directly implies how women as a community are considered to be weak and have thus been oppressed in all spheres. The universal norm of reciprocity would allow one to take care of her needs, wants and desires as and when she takes care of others around, but that hasn’t happened much. Even with the advancements, women entering the workforce, the task of taking care of the family and balancing work-home life is seen as their ‘duty and not a choice.
WHO in 2000 had declared gender to be a critical element of mental health and illness as it determines the differences in power and control either gender has. Not much has changed for women as even after the global outbreak of coronavirus, the Inter-agency Standing Committee (IASC) i.e. an inter-agency forum of UN and non-UN humanitarian partners, called for “gender-sensitive” deployment of healthcare, especially mental health. The recent reduction in fund allocation for reproductive and child health is evidence enough to say how women’s health is given low priority. According to statistics, the major workforce in the health care industry is women. Due to lack of resources, health caregivers are already at the crossroads of danger, the majority of them being females make them more at risk. With the entire focus shifting towards taking care of the COVID, food distribution and storage have also suffered; and looking at how women are the last fed, it is only obvious how their nutritional diets will be affected.
Due to the nature of restrictions in travel, women are more likely to stay at home and take care of the members. In cases of extended families, the stress and work pressure may increase as not in every household do the male members extend help in their own household chores. All this pressure not only takes a toll on their physical health but in the long run negatively affect their mental health too. The stressor at home is not limited to household chores, but rather extends to increased violence and abuse as well.
Newspapers have highlighted repeatedly how domestic violence against women has increased and owing to the lockdown and mobility restriction, they can’t help but continue to stay in an abusive relationship. The environment not only becomes toxic but has huge psychological impacts on them in addition to the physical ones. These psychological impacts may include anxiety, increased isolation, and lack of interest in daily activities, negative interactions with people, trust issues and intimacy issues with the abuser’s gender. These psychological effects may not be limited to physical abuse but also are a consequence of verbal and mental abuse; acts of manipulating, practising coercion and depriving them of basic needs. The spiral of loss of financial independence due to pandemic further forces women to stay in abusive relationships and continue to suffer in toxic households.
Not just the regular societal accepted gender of women has faced severe consequences of COVID, transwomen, whose livelihoods depend on physical contacts and are also looked down upon with disgust and negative remarks have had to suffer a lot. No policies or aids have been offered to them; instead, they are still seen as the demons of the society and are thus treated inappropriately. It’s high time to realize the importance of this gender, start treating them with respect and offer support to them.
Women have suffered for the larger part and thus structural policies as a starter may be initiated to offer them aids. The actual participation of women must be replaced by token representation in decision-making policies. Further, more job opportunities must be created for women belonging to all classes and thus helping them become independent and break off abusive relationships. The separation will not only give them freedom from toxicity but also allow them to lead healthy lives. Male members of the households must be encouraged to participate in household chores as it is their household too. Women must be encouraged to seek professional help while suffering through negative consequences including anxiety etc. Strong social support may be deployed and women must be reassured that they are being taken care of as they too deserve love and liberal lives.