Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the country, the biggest obstacle for women remains patriarchy. According to workers at the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), women in Mysuru are reluctant or unable to take COVID-19 tests due to the potential disruption of household chores.
Manjula, an ASHA employee from Mysuru, told the media that this was especially true among rural women who are apprehensive about the hospital visit. She added that they receive oximeters and medication for five days and must report to the hospital if their condition does not improve.
Rohini Sindhuri, Deputy Commissioner for Mysuru District, also raised this issue during a live on Facebook and confirmed that young women are succumbing to the virus as they do not talk about their symptoms. Other health officials said many women still depend on their male family members to bring them to health facilities, leading to serious consequences.
The huge gender divide
In a society where patriarchy is deeply entrenched, the pandemic has revealed how the burden of unpaid domestic work and a lack of agency continue to prevent women from accessing health rights.
Data from the CoWIN application presented by the central government showed that, in many states, more men were vaccinated compared to women. In many rural areas, the public health centers where the vaccines are carried out are quite distant and women would need male relatives to accompany them, which is not always the case. False rumors were also spread across WhatsApp and social media platforms that women should not get the COVID-19 vaccine during their menstrual cycle. This has only increased the existing vaccine hesitation, especially in rural areas, where women’s health already suffers from systemic biases.
The recent viral image of a middle-aged woman cooking in the kitchen while taking oxygen as part of her COVID-19 treatment was emblematic of the attitude many Indian families have towards women’s health. It was supposed to “celebrate” mothers as selfless caregivers, but instead it revealed just how deeply problematic these kinds of expectations can be.
See More information: The unpaid work of women in Indian families: labor of love or glorified slavery?
From being disproportionately thrown out of the workforce during layoffs to being burdened with an unequal division of household responsibilities, the pandemic has only increased the gender divide in work and in the kitchen. The full picture of its impact will only be revealed when we are in a post-COVID world, which seems like a distant dream under current circumstances.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh and Sanhati Banerjee)