Covid‑19 is escalating existing inequalities for women and girls and discrimination of already marginalized groups, including refugees, people with disabilities and those in extreme poverty.
Women and girls are at the greatest risk of being negatively affected by COVID‑19 as evidenced by lessons from past epidemics, including the Ebola and Zika outbreaks. Typically, women are the majority of frontline health workers (up to 70%), putting them at a higher risk for contracting the disease. Women and girls are predominantly the main caretakers, taking care of children and elderly family members, which now includes those infected with COVID‑19 in domestic isolation.
The consequences of the pandemic have caused the closure of formal and informal work leading to a loss of income, which can lead to families turning to negative coping strategies to bring in money or reduce the cost of living. These negative strategies can also lead to sexual exploitation and abuse. Restriction of movement further isolates and increases the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual and gender‑based violence (SGBV) as they find themselves in forced confinement with family members and/or partners who may be perpetrators of SGBV.
Young people are affected by the closure of social spaces including schools, community centres and health clinics where many of them receive comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and SRH services. This results in many young people not having access to essential SRH services. It is estimated that around 90% of the world’s student population is impacted.
A gender lens is critical in any intervention in response to the pandemic. The response must be gender responsive, while also acknowledging and recognizing the needs and rights of women and girls, and vulnerable people, including the elderly, adolescents and young people, people with disabilities and refugees.*
*This is an excerpt from the IMAP statement on COVID-19 and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. The statement reinforces IPPF’s position and commitment to SRH and rights and gender equality. Read the full IMAP statement here.