London (CNN)The novel coronavirus seems to be more deadly for men. But in every other way, women are bearing the brunt of this pandemic.
From a spike in domestic violence and restricted access to family-planning services to disproportionate economic impact, the lockdown measures put in place to stop the outbreak are hurting women and their basic rights a lot more than men. Previous epidemics of Ebola and Zika have resulted in major setbacks for women and girls in the regions most affected by the outbreaks — and experts and activists are warning the same thing is happening globally right now.
A CNN analysis earlier this year found that in the countries for which data was available, men were 50% more likely than women to die after being diagnosed with Covid-19. But experts say focusing purely on health data is dangerous.
“We think about this crisis in very narrow terms, only focusing on the health impacts, but we’re missing the bigger picture,” said Julia Smith, a researcher at the Simon Fraser University in Canada. Smith is working on a multi-year project looking at the wider impact of the pandemic.
“Men are having worse health outcomes if they become infected, but when we think about the secondary impacts, here we see that women are being disproportionately affected,” she added.
The pandemic is worsening problems women were facing even before it started. “Crises like this exacerbate already existing structural inequalities in society — when it comes to women’s rights, women’s health, and women’s economic status, this is exactly what we are seeing now,” said Kristina Lunz, co-founder of The Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy.
Women’s rights as an afterthought
Smith said that when marginalized groups are underrepresented at the decision-making table, their rights and needs are often forgotten. “And unfortunately, women’s rights are almost always an afterthought in any crisis situation,” she said.
As the virus started spreading around the world, many governments abruptly announced strict lockdowns, confining most citizens to their homes. While this helped slow down the outbreak, authorities in a number of countries recorded a worrying consequence: spikes in domestic violence.
Many activists say it was painfully obvious that such abuse would increase in a lockdown situation. Numerous studies have shown that stressful events such as economic downturns or natural disasters often lead to higher instances of gender-based violence.
“Imagine all the women that have been locked down with a man that is causing them harm … many of these women have reported this to the police before, they could have been reached out to and taken away before the confinement started,” said Elena Marbán Castro, a fellow at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.