No respite from the patriarchy

Location IconSurendranagar district, Gujarat

Nirmala is a 33-year-old woman from Goriawad, a remote village in Surendranagar district, Gujarat. She contracted the virus five days after her husband tested positive for COVID-19. While she looked after her husband, no such support was forthcoming for her. Instead, her father-in-law called up her father and said, “Your daughter has COVID-19, what should we do?” In taking care of her husband, Nirmala has to prepare his meals, take care of his medication, as well as wash his clothes and his utensils. She cannot follow the COVID-19 advisory of preventing contact with articles used by the patient. While her husband could rest and recuperate, Nirmala had no such choice.

According to Nirmala, the situation of young women—daughters-in-law in particular—is precarious. If she tests positive because she was looking after a family member, it is alright. But if she is the first one to test positive, then she faces the wrath of the entire family. It is considered her fault and she is stigmatised for putting the entire household at risk. And even though she is infected, she has to continue to do the housework.

On being asked what can be done to relieve the situation for women, Nirmala suggested that a free tiffin service for families affected by COVID-19 would relieve the burden on women and also ensure adequate nutrition.

The virus does not discriminate, as everybody says, but the opportunities to access treatment and then follow it are not the same for all.

Poonam Kathuria and Krishna Keshavani work at Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiatives (SWATI), a feminist organisation that focuses on prevention of all forms of violence against women. This story is reconstructed from an interview with a GBV counsellor as part of a study by SWATI on the gendered impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls.

Know more: Read about how COVID-19 has undone years of progress for adolescent girls.

Do more: Connect with the authors at [email protected] to learn more about and support their work.


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