How the Pandemic Has Increased the Gender Inequality Gap in India



By: Trisha Gupta


It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every single person in the world, with the continuing threat of infection, fluctuating economy, loss of jobs leading to poverty and much more. However, women all around the world are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic compared to men, and this situation is especially dire in India. Gender inequality has been a critical social issue in India for a long time, and it continues today. To make matters worse, the pandemic has done nothing to help and has only increased the gender inequality gap, even reversing previous progress made to resolve it.

To begin with, the pandemic has greatly affected girls’ education in India and has even harmed efforts to increase it. The gender gap in education is extremely prominent in India, with the number of girls being educated is significantly less than boys and the pandemic has intensified the obstacles girls face to receive education. Up to 10 million girls are at risk of dropping out of school because of the pandemic, and throughout India there have been larger numbers of girls dropping out than boys, even in large cities like Mumbai. This decrease in education is mainly due to the closure of schools and the financial crisis many families have been going through throughout the lockdown. Many girls leave school and are unable to afford to come back. Some parents just do not have enough money and others choose to prioritize their sons’ education over their daughters, due to sexist beliefs and gender bias. This has also created an increase in childhood marriage.

For older women the pandemic has created more difficulties when it comes to finding jobs and working. Women’s employment was already low before the pandemic and women only made one-fifth of what men did. Once the pandemic hit, this number got much lower. The global trend was that more women lost jobs than men, and the same remained true for India. It was reported that 47% of Indian women lost their jobs in the first wave of the pandemic, compared to 7% of men. Add this on to the wage gap between men and women in India, and the economic advantages of men only increased, with women making significantly less than men. Furthermore, in India especially, women are expected to do most, if not all, of the unpaid work in a household, such as cooking meals, cleaning, and taking care of children. With increased sick family members and financial strain, the situation has gotten so dire that many women have had to stop paid work just to be able to manage their households and take care of families. This leaves them with no source of income, making them more dependent on the men in their lives, which can partly explain the increase in domestic violence.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been great increase in domestic violence against women. The National Commision of Women data reported that there was a 2.5 times increase in domestic violence between February and May 2020 recorded in India. This number is only the cases of domestic violence that were reported, but it is very likely there are many cases that were not reported simply because the women were unable to do so. The spike in domestic violence is a result of a combination of things, but can largely be attributed to the fact that women are trapped at home with their abusers and have significantly less resources and means to access help.

The Indian Government is carrying out attempts to help women who need it, but it is simply not enough. Regardless of their effort, there are still girls not receiving an education, women struggling with the pressures of financial strain and caring for their families, and women suffering. We must do more, starting with raising awareness and providing girls and women with the resources they need. It is up to us to help those who need it, and we must play our part.



References:

https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2021/7/faq-women-and-covid-19-in-india

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/05/17/opinion/india-pandemic-may-turn-back-clock-womens-empowerment/

https://theprint.in/india/education/my-daughters-studies-can-wait-covid-pushes-girl-child-out-of-school-as-family-incomes-drop/754236/

https://harvardpolitics.com/covid-19-girls/

https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2021/6/news-driving-investment-and-support-for-women-and-girls-impacted-by-covid-19-in-india




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