Although disasters do not discriminate at the time of striking, but in the longer run women seem to get more affected by the disasters. Due to lack of personal assets possessed by women be it physical, economical, human or social, they tend to be more vulnerable to disasters. A 2007 study by London School of Economics, shows that on an average disaster kills more women than men or to be more precise more young women than men of the same age. Whenever a disaster takes place, women generally undergo several problems like the huge need of sanitation, hygiene, and nourishment necessities, sexual violence, exploitation and early marriages. It had been seen in multiple cases during disasters either natural or manmade, women face terrible deficiency of clean water, nutritious food, clean clothes, soaps, proper medication, sanitary napkins, contraception or even necessary services of safe abortion methods. These unavailability throw them in a situation where they get ready to compromise their personal safety in order to fulfil their needs. During July 2000, approximately half a million Congolese and Burundian refugees threw themselves in the huge risk of getting contaminated by the STD and HIV as adolescent girls started offering sexual favours to strangers in return of soaps. In another instance, a 2013 survey by CARE shows that, after the Muzaffarnagar riots in the settling camps for the refugees in Shyamali, a village of Utter Pradesh, around 200 adolescent girls were married off and many more were being prepared for marriage by their families, within three months of moving into the camps. It is proven multiple times that whenever a disaster happens women and girls have to bear the burns of it for a long time. So, when the COVID 19 pandemic and the subsequent lock downs started it became quite evident that this pandemic is going to cost women the fortune they have achieved with a struggle of so many years. Many women rights activists were worrying that their rights, safety and liberty will be compromised and the situation right now is signalling towards a very gloomy future for the woman demographic of the world.
Around 47 million women from India are set to slide under poverty line in 2020. Normally in a patriarchal work culture, women tend to get downgraded as per their efficiency is concerned. As a large part of the society still believes that women do not need higher education and therefore, they do not deserve the right to make decision, equal stake in property and agriculture as the male members of the families, women tend to be poorer than men hence more vulnerable to disasters as said before. But the maternal qualities and the care giving qualities make a woman an automatic choice for the home and hearth. The amount of unpaid caregiving that a woman provides in a household seem to double up with the schools and day care centres closing down and children staying at home for a longer time than usual. With the schools closing down and children staying at home the working mothers are having to choose between work and home and being the one getting paid lesser than the man of the household they have to choose their home over their works. The case for the women earning similar money as their husbands, is not different either for their natural care giving qualities, they are more likely to let go off their jobs in order take care of the household. It is seen in various instances that men being the socially assigned bread winners of the family do not feel at ease doing house work or child care. The men find it difficult to raise a child by themselves, likewise women also feel a struggle to make decisions or negotiate on their own. But with the time the gender barriers are breaking with women being more comfortable in decision making and negotiating but when a recession hits the market the first people to lose their job will be the women as till this date women more precisely mothers are not considered to be efficient workers in multiple workforces around the world. The lock down also exposed women to a greater number of domestic and sexual violence. Families having lesser money cutting off their daughters’ education and forcing them to marry early. The nutrition for women at this point is in a highly questionable state and most importantly due to the pandemic women around the world are missing out on contraception and safe abortion services which is going to cost many lives as the women choose to resort to unsafe measures to abort the foetus. In this year around 1.3 million women of India are set to lose the services of abortion and contraception that can lead to some dire consequences.
Upcoming baby boom:
A recent survey by Marie Stopps, the organisation that provides contraceptives to many countries of the world, shows that, this year around 900,000 women are going to face unintended pregnancies with 1.5 million unsafe abortions and 3000 maternal deaths around the world. In 37 countries around 2 million women are missing out on the necessary contraception and abortion services during the pandemic, which is leading the world to an upcoming baby boom. But in a world where one out of four pregnancies end in abortion what can happen if women in need stop getting the services? They will turn towards unsafe methods of abortion that would claim their lives. So, it is beyond any doubt that the contraceptive and abortion services for women should be a necessary health care service. But the disruptions seem to tell a whole different story altogether. The World Health Organisation reports that there is a disruption in family planning and contraceptive services during mid-May to early-July in one third of the 103 countries it surveyed. The UN population fund warns that there can be about 7 million unwanted pregnancies. A surge in teen pregnancies has been noticed in Kenya as the schools are closed and the provision of contraceptive is disrupted, teen age girls are resorting to unsafe means such as scissors, glass bottles or knifes to abort, that are likely to cause infections and result into death. Many African, Latin American, and Asian countries are facing disruptive abortion and contraceptive services as most of the hospitals have turned into COVID-19 response centres. In India states do not have required stocks of birth control pills in the pharmacies and the online services are clogged due to huge backlogs and blocked routes. The pharmacies in the northern states are having only 1% southern states 2%, and Delhi having only 34% percent of the required stock of birth control pills. There is a huge gap in communication due to the lock down that makes the situation even worse. It has been observed that from the starting of the lock down that is the end of March to the complete normalcy that is expected till the end of September around 6.9 lac sterilization services, 9.7 lac intra uterine contraceptive devices (IUCDs), 5.8 lac doses of ICs, 23.08 million circles of oral contraceptives, 9.2 lac emergency contraceptive pills, and 405.96 million condoms will be missed by the people in need of these services. In India where the stigma related to sex make people buy condoms and contraceptives and even pregnancy test kits from far away pharmacies just to avoid judgements, the lock down and the travelling restrictions made the situation worse for people in dire need. The lost services can take back women to several years backwards when safe abortion and the reproduction rights were just mere dreams.
Why abortion is needed:
There can be multiple reasons that a pregnant woman would want to have an abortion. Besides the health issues, pandemics like Ebola and COVID-19 have witnessed upticks in sexual violence against women resulting into unwanted pregnancies, another reason for families to be unwilling to have child during this pandemic situation is that with the recession hitting the market and during the previous lock down many families have lost their economic stabilities. So, these are the social reasons for abortions. Now the medical reasons can range from the mother having a risk of miscarriage to the mother having a life risk if she chooses to continue the pregnancy. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates around $553 million can be saved from critical maternity care by providing the mother with safe abortion services. By making the accessibility of contraception and safe abortion services easier to women, the maternal mortality rate has been brought down by 38% during the period of 2000-2017. For women, like menstrual hygiene and sexual hygiene; the contraception and the safe abortion services should be a necessary health facility. But despite Indian governments order to treat these services as necessary health services the draught of services are brutally vivid.
This is a women rights emergency:
With the recession and unemployment, women are falling short compared to men. A raging number of sexual violence cases are coming up with every passing day along with the fear of unwanted pregnancies in teen agers. At this moment women getting denied for abortion is a serious infringement of women rights. A woman should have the reproductive rights or in other words they should have the right to choose when and how they want to bring their children in this earth. For a long time, women are being treated as a machine that reproduces children for the family, but with the wake of women rights movements around the world along with the right to education and property women also have achieved the reproduction rights. This pandemic has sent the women several years back with the raging sexual violence, unemployment, lack of education and the lack of safe abortion services. Women are also facing malnourishment as the families tend to concentrate on the male bread winner of the family. The woman even after being the major earner neglects her nutrition in order to cater to her children and husband. With the pandemic the paid care givers have largely lost their jobs and still figuring out how to make the ends meet, construction contractors do not hire women as they do not have faith on the female workers’ capabilities, given this situation a lack of abortion services only adds up to the impoverished women’s stress and a gloomy future for women in general. The early marriages that are going to double up by the time the pandemic ends also result to unhealthy pregnancies therefore, denying women for abortion is throwing them in the face of death. Moreover, the anti-choice law makers are taking advantages of the situation in order to rob women off their rights. Practices like these have been seen in the US states of Texas and Ohio and also in Poland. The reproductive rights are the rights that empowers women with the choice of deciding their future that leads to economic independence and the growth of the society.
The way out:
To make women more equipped for sustaining calamities they should be allowed to make decisions, and allowed to be healthy both physically and economically. This being said to make a woman physically and economically healthy, there should be enough emergency services such as sanitary pads, soaps, clean water, nutritious food, condoms, contraceptive pills, safe abortion services in handy. Without these necessary services a hundred years of struggle will go in vain because if she cannot stand how will she fight? This pandemic has hit a reboot button to the entire world as we slowly get back on the track it is time that we start looking at people irrespective of genders and take care of their needs.