COVID-19 Crisis: Women’s Lives, Safety at Risk, IPU Says

FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) says the raging COVID-19 pandemic and some of the measures to contain it are putting women’s lives and safety at risk. 

This worrisome disclosure is coming as COVID-19 positive cases in Nigeria are zooming skyward. With 248 new positive cases on Sunday night, the country’s tally now stands at 4399 cases.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that made the figure public also announced 17 deaths in the country, noting that the increasing number of infections in Nigeria was because they have been able to hit 23,835 tested samples mark. 

Interestingly, a total of 778 patients have been treated and discharged, just as the country records 143 deaths in 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja since an index case was reported last February.

Of the 248 new cases recorded in 17 states, Lagos’ share is 81, Jigawa 35, Borno and Kano 26 each, Bauchi 20, Abuja 13, Edo 12, Sokoto 10, Zamfara seven, Kwara and Kebbi four each, Gombe, Taraba, Ogun and Ekiti two each, Osun and Bayelsa one case each.

IPU is, however, saying that women are on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 70 per cent of health workers are women. 

OECD is an international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives. Its goal is to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all. 

Together with governments, policymakers and citizens, it’s working on establishing evidence-based international standards and finding solutions to a range of social, economic and environmental challenges. 

From improving economic performance and creating jobs to fostering strong education and fighting international tax evasion, we provide a unique forum and knowledge hub for data and analysis, exchange of experiences, best-practice sharing, and advice on public policies and international standard-setting. 

For IPU, however, ‘’women make up the majority of carers in the home and workers in grocery stores or pharmacies. The economic downturn will disproportionately affect women more than men. Women workers are also more likely than men to have lower-paid and less secure jobs.

‘’Violence against women is already an epidemic with 137 women killed every day in the world by a family member. Living in confinement and in times of economic stress can also increase the risk of sexual exploitation and violence against women. 

‘’Failing to take into account gendered dimensions in the response to the pandemic will not only exacerbate existing inequalities but also create new ones.’’ 

So what solutions can parliaments and legislators bring to address the gender aspects of the pandemic?

There is a new IPU guidance designed for parliaments as a resource to help them manage the crisis. It contains recommendations and examples from other parliaments on Women’s participation and leadership in parliamentary decision-making on COVID-19.

Others are on gender-responsive COVID-19 legislation, overseeing government action on the pandemic from a gender perspective, the roles of MPs in communicating and raising awareness of COVID-19 and its effects; and gender-sensitive parliaments in a time of contagion.

Read the guidance note.

For examples of gender-responsive parliamentary practices, see Djibouti, the European ParliamentMexicoNew Zealand, and the United Kingdom on the page of country compilation of parliamentary responses to the pandemic.

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