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Home: A Safe Haven or Prison for the Women during lockdown?

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The global contagion of COVID-19 has brought the world to take shelter at home. To flatten the curve of the rising pandemic, people are advised to stay at home as “ Home is the safest place to fight the virus.” Well, this has posed a new challenge to the Women, many of whom have encountered domestic abuses in their homes. The closures of the courtroom, counseling centres have brought up new challenges for the victims at the hands of their domestic abusers.

As the world is under lockdown to fight the virus, this has posed a bigger challenge for the women worldwide to fight the virus at home. While countries like the United States of America, Canada, Argentine, France, Singapore, United Kingdom have witnessed an increase for distress calls owing to the lockdown at home, India is no exception. The intensity in the escalation of violence at the hands of the abusers at home has spiralled. The strain created by the loss of jobs, insecurity of income, health, unpaid home loans have placed the women in a vulnerable position as it has triggered their partners to inflict more violence on the woman and children in the house. The quarantine has posed a threat to those who were in an abusive relationship. The isolation from friends and family have unleashed more violence and fear of survival perpetrate by physical and verbal abuse.

Domestic violence against women is condemned worldwide as a gross violation of Human rights. Every year millions of cases are reported for domestic abuse at the hands of the partner. With the lockdown of the world, there are numerous cases of domestic abuse reported from across the world, affecting the mental, physical, psychological effects on women. Addressing the rise of domestic violence case, Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General United Nations, called for “ceasefire” for domestic violence in his address to the nations and urged the governments of the states to secure and prioritise women’s safety at home during the pandemic.

Despite, the calls for providing security to the women, extending the provision of human rights to ensure their security, the scale of reporting and addressing the distress call varies from country to country. While developed nations like USA, Australia, UK have established hotlines to provide legal assistance and counselling, developing nations like India, the plight of women at the hands of the abusers present a dismal picture. Many women working as migrants workers who are spending their days in isolation in shelter homes or locked behind the walls of their homes have no access to the helpline. The data analysed by the National Commission for Women have seen a sharp increase in the cases of violence. When connectedness is vital to ensure women’s safety, the lockdown has come as the biggest impediment to their security in their vulnerable homes. Domestic violence attributes to exercising control over the sexual, emotional and physical health. During the period of quarantine, lack of opportunities and with no revenue to generate income and perceived feeling of frustration and powerlessness, the resort to aggressive forms of control over women possibly intensifies. Also, the gendered roles of the Indian society place the women in a vulnerable situation during the lockdown.  The subornation of women in the power relations of the Indian society in the context of the patriarchal norms in delineating the household chores to the women puts her in a vulnerable position if she fails to comply to it particularly if a woman is locked inside with abusing partner and in-laws.

 How far is the global community responsive to the abuses inflicted upon the women during the global pandemic? The economy of the world is on the verge of collapse, job insecurity,  the spectre of unemployment looming, food crisis over the world have cast a dark shadow on the existence of the humankind. We are often hearing that Mother Earth is healing, but mothers and women quarantined at home are suffering more abuse. There is healing to reduce their pain, to address their cries locked inside the walls of the house.

The international global forum passed laws and conventions like the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, Millennium Development Goal3 for the protection of the women globally. However, the conventions and the laws are far from being put into practice, particularly amidst the crisis. This evident from the spike in cases in Turkey, Kosovo, signatories to the Council of Europe treaty.  The treaty was ratified to combat violence against women, however, during the pandemic, both the countries have seen a spike in the number of cases. In the USA, despite hotlines set up for the victims, and efforts were undertaken by the Organisation of American States to address the problem, the USA has seen an increase in abuse against women. Canada has opened shelter homes for the victims of abuse and violence. UK, France, Australia have raised funds to support the victims and providing temporary housing facilities. Concerning India, despite the United Nations conventions to eliminate violence against the women and enaction of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA or Domestic Violence Act) in 2005, there is a surge in domestic violence. Before the crisis, women in India rarely turn to government authorities like police or have access to hotlines. With the lockdown, the women the lockdown has added woes to the battered women. The government has failed to provide necessary measures to address the problems of the victims of lockdown.

The worldwide lockdown to flatten the curve of the pandemic have engulfed the women with fear of survival. To many, the virus( the abuser) at home is more life-threatening than the virus outside due to severed ties of much supportive organisation, shelter homes and social services. With the economic downturn, many organisation working for domestic victims suffer funds backlash.

With “ stay at home, stay secure” forms the rallying cry as a necessary measure to flatten the pandemic curve, home no longer is a haven for the women victims of abuse and harassment. Further, it has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities.

The global pandemic has emerged as a significant economic and emotional shock to the world. During this hour of crisis, lockdown comes as a significant challenger to our values and humanitarian concerns. Women face an unprecedented challenge amidst the legally mandated lockdown. The United Nations is promoting and providing humanitarian support by prioritising women’s safety and security amidst the global crisis. The United Nations have appealed to the governments of various nations to enlist their support in setting up monitoring services and online support, overcoming the barriers of pandemic remains a challenge for the battered women.

Ms. Rumi Roy is an independent researcher and views expressed by her is completely personal.

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New Social Compact

The Need for Humanitarian Leadership and Global Solidarity during COVID-19

Dr.Anis Ben Brik

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The coronavirus pandemic is a systemic human development crisis, affecting individuals and societies in unprecedented ways. It is also generating new humanitarian needs.

According to UN estimates, half a billion people, or 8% of the world’s population, could be pushed into destitution by the year’s end, largely due to the pandemic. If so, then the fight against poverty would be set back 30 years. The International Rescue Committee said last week that the virus could cause 1bn infections and 3.2m deaths in 34 fragile states, including Afghanistan and Syria.

The fourth annual Global Report on Food Crises highlights Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti among the countries most at risk of widespread famines caused by the coronavirus pandemic. According to World Food Programme estimates, the number suffering from hunger could rise from 135 million to more than 250 million.

The International Labour Organization reported last week that almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers (representing the most vulnerable in the labor market)out of a worldwide 2 billion and a global workforce of 3.3 billion are in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed.

COVID-19 has underscored the importance of humanitarian leadership and global solidarity. On April 2, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by 188 nations including Qatar, calling for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic, including by exchanging information, scientific knowledge and best practices and by applying the relevant guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization.”

Solidarity is a matter of both morality and long-term vision. Failure to pass this test would leave deep psychological wounds in left-behind countries, paving the way for all manner of extremism and new crises—from pandemics to conflicts—that would threaten everyone. By rallying around science and solidarity today, we will sow the seeds for greater unity tomorrow.

The coronavirus does not respect borders. Nor does it discriminate. It brings into stark view the imperative for humanitarian leadership. This crisis has revealed variations in state capacity to contain the spread of the virus.

Many governments either lack adequate capacity to respond, or in some cases, the necessary political will to provide for their citizens. For example, the most developed countries – those in the very high human development category – have on average 55 hospital beds, over 30 physicians, and 81 nurses per 10,000 people, compared to 7 hospital beds, 2.5 physicians, and 6 nurses in a least developed country.

One can readily imagine that if the COVID-19 response has been dire in the developed countries, it is going to be infinitely more devastating for governments that have only a fraction of the financial and medical resources.

Despite the blockade, the State of Qatar stands out as one of the most actively involved in global humanitarian responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qatar has provided significant humanitarian aid to 20 countries so far, including assistance in the field of medical supplies, building field hospitals, and contributing USD 140 million to multilateral organizations working to develop vaccines or ensure the resilience of healthcare in other countries.

To date, Qatar has sent substantial aid to China, Iran, Palestine, Italy, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Nepal and Rwanda. In addition, the representation mission of the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) in Turkey has recently distributed supplementary food aid to around 110,000 families at internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in Idlib and Aleppo Governorates, northern Syria.

In the age of COVID-19, protecting the most vulnerable among us is not just a moral imperative but also an urgent public health objective. The health of one is the health of all.

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New Social Compact

COVID-19: More than a Biological Weapon

Sabah Aslam

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While the biological virus is a common enemy of humankind, the political virus born out of certain American politicians is equally detestable, for it has damaged the global anti-epidemic cooperation and impeded the long-term development and progress of human society. The virus in the political world has done even more damages than the virus from the natural world.

What are the sources of this political virus then? It is rooted in the selfish interests of a handful of American politicians. Not long ago, the American media revealed that senior US officials had handed down documents to a number of federal agencies requesting all federal employees to speak consistently about the pandemic and blame China for everything. The document was practically a confession of the US government on how it implemented the buck-passing. As 2020 is America’s election year, some American politicians are so crazily intent on fabricating all kinds of fallacies about “holding China accountable,” attacking the WHO for being too “China-centric,” and even criticizing some state governors for poor epidemic response, all to keep the epidemic from affecting the election. Such unscrupulous “political shows” reflect how desperate these politicians are to cover up their misconduct both in the decision and execution of their response, with a purpose of deflecting the public grumble.

The political virus is a tumor stemming from racism. After the WHO and the scientific circle named the novel coronavirus COVID-19, some American politicians deliberately ignored the new nomenclature and insisted on calling it the “Chinese virus”. It is an international consensus not to label a virus with a region, state, or nation, which is also a universal principle that the international community should uphold. Yet these American politicians are determined to defy the world by intentionally steering public opinions in the direction of racism and xenophobia, and practicing racial discrimination. The use of the term “Chinese virus” for coronavirus laid bare the absolute absence of common sense, conscience, cooperative spirit, and morality in those politicians infected with the “political virus”.

The political virus derives from the Cold War mentality. A small group of American politicians have been obsessed with political maneuver and slandering China, especially the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been busy fanning flames and spreading rumors. The “political virus” ingrained in their mind is the hotbed of all their vicious intentions. They have the wishful thinking that accusing China of the so-called “mask diplomacy” would offset its influence; vilifying China’s aid to help build the African Center for Disease Prevention and Control as an attempt to “steal genome data” would drive a wedge between China and Africa; and egging other countries to claim reparations from China would pin the “original sin” of the virus on the country…. These whimsical whoppers are nothing but Washington’s attempts to curb China’s development.

The political virus is rooted in the obsession with “great-power competition.” The US government labeled China and Russia as the biggest challenges to US national security in its latest National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, and declared the reemergence of great-power competition. During this global crisis of COVID-19, certain American politicians, going out of their way to make “ammunition to win the great-power competition,” have gone all out to oppose China in every possible way and tried hard to cover up America’s embarrassment of ineffective epidemic control measures by smearing China, rather than focus on preventing the virus spread. As we can never wake up someone pretending to be asleep, perhaps the best way is to leave him alone and “not even turn our eyes in his direction,” as the famous Chinese writer Lu Xun once said.

The disease has seeped down into the skin and should be treated before it gets worse. The world is still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and all countries need to join hands in defeating it. We advise the American politicians with ulterior motives to stop the misdeed and change course before its too late. We also call on the international community to stay on high alert and take strong measures to prevent the American political virus from spreading to do more harm to the global anti-epidemic efforts and the normal international order.

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New Social Compact

Spanish Flu and COVID-19 – are there lessons for the world of work?

Dorothea Hoehtker

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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many look to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918/19, which killed an estimated 50 million people, or 2,5 per cent of the global population. Are there lessons to be learned from the world of work perspective?

The Spanish flu did not start in Spain but was called that because Spanish newspapers were the first to report about it. From its presumed origins in a World War I military camp in the state of Kansas, United States, it washed over the world in three waves. The first, mild one in spring 1918, was followed by a second, more deadly outbreak between September and December 1918 and a third one at the beginning of 1919.

All countries were hit, although unequally. Samoa lost 22 per cent of its population, Spain 12,3 per cent and the US 6,5 per cent. In colonial India, the flu killed 6 per cent of the population, amounting to 18 million, roughly the number of victims of the First World War.

Similar patterns, similar measures

COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu both have struck a highly globalized and interconnected world where viruses easily travel on ships, carriers and trains, or – today – on airplanes. As 1918 was the last year of the First World War, the movement of troops and refugees was a significant factor in spreading the virus. In 2019/20, business and leisure travellers have been the main carriers.

The only measures to control the spread of the disease back in 1918 just as in 2020 were better hygiene, quarantine of the infected, “social distancing” and shutting down much of public life. This implied massive restrictions of civil liberties and paralysis and disruption of the economy.

In 1918/19 as well as today, the poorest and most vulnerable, who often lived in crowded conditions, with low paid work and little or no access to health care, were much more exposed to infection. They also suffered most immediately from drastic lock down measures, and were at a particularly high risk of losing their lives and their livelihoods.

Different impacts

The Spanish Flu happened at the tail end of the First World War, in a context of widespread chaos. The response to the crisis was uncoordinated, mostly local, with a high mobilization of civil society groups.

In industrialized nations, the economic impact was rather short lived. Eventually, the economic boom of the “Roaring Twenties” got many people back to work.

In other parts of the world, such as India and sub-Saharan Africa, the consequences were deeper and longer lasting. A shortfall in labour affected harvest and sowing. Food prices spiked, causing widespread famine and an increased flow of migrants into urban centres. This led to social unrest, strikes and rebellion against colonial powers.

What we can learn

Although the world is very different today, we can learn from the events in 1918/19 that a pandemic increases poverty and inequalities; this carries a social and human cost, which can have long term destabilizing effects.

Today, states have more possibilities to react, including through fiscal and labour market policies and tools, and the opportunity for international cooperation through the United Nations and their international partners.

Policies in response to the COVID-19 crisis need to address inequalities and ensure that poor, rural and marginalized communities are not forgotten. ILO’s labour standards such as Recommendation No. 205, on employment and decent work for peace and resilience, provide the necessary framework.

The global economic and labour market problems arising out of the COVID-19 crisis suggest looking also at the economic crisis of the 1930s and reconstruction policies after World War II.

As a response to massive unemployment and destruction, the ILO promoted comprehensive social protection, including health care, and a variety of employment promotion policies based on the conviction that poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere.

These past responses can be an inspiration for recovery policies which have to be fair and – compared to the past – much more sustainable.

ILO

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