#Beijing25 || Viewpoint: Sofia, COVID-19 IMPACT ON GENDER EQUALITY


By Sofia G

Corona is a pandemic disease which is being affected all over the world. Every corner of the world is suffering from corona. It is a communicable disease which can be spread through touching, breathing or sneezing. Currently many people are being affected by this,some people tend to die due to this disease. Today’s update is many people are getting cured through proper sanitisation and through proper health facilities. This pandemic has led to many issues, of which one of the issues can be discussed as the impact on Gender equality. People try to differentiate the genders while giving treatment.

Lockdowns are being announced to prevent the spread of corona whereas many womens are being trapped at home with abusers. Many men try to abuse their own family members like their own children. Even though there are many advantages in this lockdown like spending time with their family, playing indoor games, children tend to share their own feelings to their parents and so on. Many families are being united in this process of lockdown.

In this Pandemic Scientists are trying to find the vaccine and it is very important that the medical research should not be Gender blind. Clinical traits must include Gender-balanced representation of women to examine how the vaccine might affect women and men differently. Even though women are given opportunities and are being recognised as Engineers, collectors and Doctors, they are not identified or well represented among Senior Doctors, Engineers or Collectors. Only a few are recognised under compulsion.

Gender stereotypes and socioeconomic inequalities continue to impact on use of preventative and curative health services.The Gender differentiation can be stopped through various methods. There are some sections under which abused women can report it and the abuser is being punished for it.
Helplines are also available to save women for example: 1091,WAVE(Women against violence europe).

The increase of the representation of women in health governance,Decision-making and certain occupations could help to ensure that women are also having the opportunities to shape their importance.

To conclude my point Gender equality can be stopped and make women feel comfortable. Still there are some ways to sort out the uncomfortableness or safety of women all over the world. Therefore, this small changes are being expected to push social norms towards greater gender equality in providing some facilities where the women are safe all over the world.

Prajnya Gender Talks, August 2020 || Surveillance, COVID-19 & Women: How is surveillance being experienced by women at the margins during COVID-19? by Radhika Radhakrishnan


August 2020

Rapporteur: Suhasini Udayakumar


Leading the resurrected Prajnya Gender Talk Series was this talk on “Surveillance, COVID-19 and Women” conducted post the first COVID lockdown of 2020. Even during the first few months of COVID, chilling stories about women’s domestic safety during the pandemic gave cause for feminist researchers to consider the exact implications of the pandemic for women, especially those on the margins. 

With that in mind, we organised this talk with Radhika Radhakrishnan, a feminist researcher with a master’s degree in Women’s Studies from TISS, India. Radhika was at the time studying the intersections of gender, sexuality, technology and politics at the Internet Democracy Project (IDP) and was excited to share recent research findings about the lived experiences of a variety of marginalities with respect to surveillance during COVID-19. 

What is data?

Radhika began the roundtable by asking the audience a fundamental question “What do you think is the meaning of data?” 

Participants responded with their ideas: privacy, evidence, thoughts, research, that which is authentic, useful information, statistics etc. Radhika then went on to explain how the purpose of her research – and this roundtable – was to show that data was so much more, especially in the COVID-19 context. The genesis of this particular research was from the buzz in policy circles that described data purely as a resource and a public good. Commonly heard was the phrase “Data is the new oil.” But is that so? Does data even exist separately and autonomously from our own bodies? Radhika’s aim was to show why and how we need to reframe these dominant but inadequate notions of data.

Human beings take their bodies very seriously. We are cognizant of violations, infringements, and attacks when it comes to our bodies. Similarly, organisations and platforms take privacy violations seriously. But when there is a digital injury to our data or information, we take it far less seriously: this is because we view the data as separate from our bodies. Radhika’s research intended to investigate if this idea was true. 

Radhika began explaining her findings by defining surveillance as a process of controlling bodies through data. This is of critical importance to feminists since this offered a new dimension; historically, women’s bodies have been the objects of control – more so if one was a marginalised woman. This new and data-fied world would enable even more control over women’s bodies. It was now important to find out exactly how data is used to control women, and how it affects various intersections to give a complete view without erasing any identities.

The Methodology

This research started out as informal conversations with people about the difficulties they faced with respect to data. It later evolved to a more structured approach, where investigators conducted 25 interviews (both Hindi and English) over four months and listened to the candid storytelling of the experiences of various communities such as sex workers, transpersons, queer persons, Muslim women, Dalit women, gig workers, Asha workers, working-class people, women’s rights organisations and activists, activists working with Adivasis, and public health activists. 

The four key findings from the research are as follows:

  • Surveillance led to increased control over bodies during COVID-19.
  • Data proved to be a key factor in the way surveillance was being carried out and experienced.
  • Within the field, conversations were limited to privacy issues with data. This needs to transform into an acknowledgement that with data privacy violations, fundamental rights such as bodily integrity, dignity, and autonomy are at stake.
  • Those at the margins experience surveillance more, facing maximum costs and bearing the maximum brunt. 

The research categorised surveillance based on three spaces: 

  1. The private space (family)
  2. The public space (community)
  3. The state

It is important to look at all these spaces because of the differing power hierarchies within each space. Women at the margins are most likely to negotiate with this power to gain concessions that are otherwise not accessible to them. 

Space 1: The Private Space (Family)

During the pandemic, the outside was regarded as unsafe and the inside safe. This was not the case for women, where the household was a space for constant surveillance, invasion, and abuse. During this time, women had to live in close proximity to those they most feared and needed protection and privacy from. As the pandemic wore on, domestic violence rates skyrocketed. While the rest of the country bemoaned the overuse of technology and the associated data risks, for women, data presented itself as the only escape route. Women facing abuse needed phones, the internet, and data about crisis centres to call helplines. But in lower socio-economic households, the phone is often a shared resource and women were afraid to report crimes through the family phone. These dynamics of surveillance in the household and often overlooked. 

Source: Point of View, Internet Democracy Project

Similarly, LGBTQIA+ persons run the risk of being outed when family members surveil their phones. Sex workers often use two phones, a personal one used openly and a professional one that is often hidden and used in secret. They have to constantly worry about their families discovering the hidden-phone or have to deflect questions about their source of income. Their income and livelihood are also directly affected by their limited ability to use the phone. These are a few of the intersectional lenses through which we need to view data and tech in the household space. 

Source: Point of View, Internet Democracy Project

Increasing control and restrictions over women’s use of data and technology have had devastating consequences. Society has a persisting fear that if women have access to data and tech, they will be liberated from patriarchal constraints: they view data as an escape for women from traditional confines. Thus, we can trace a direct link between controlling women’s data and controlling women’s bodies, and thus we need to question the universal distinction between data and bodies. Data is not just a resource. It is not independent of our bodies. And it is not just a good for human consumption. Control over data is experienced intimately; it extends beyond issues of privacy and beyond current policies over data harm. It extends to sexual, bodily, and financial autonomy – embodied experiences which are currently not captured. 

Space 2: The Public Space (Community)

Surveillance of marginalities in the community shares commonalities and differences from surveillance within the household. Some examples include the surveillance and ostracization of transgender folks in Hyderabad during COVID, the effect of which was critical and life-threatening. Here, the stigma associated with COVID was transferred to the trans community. 

Source: Internet Democracy Project

This type of community surveillance extends over several axes and marginalities: Kashmiris, Muslims, single women, queer persons, domestic workers etc. In all cases, the dominant community surveils and harasses the marginalised community. In most communities, this type of surveillance was already happening, but data only made it easier. CCTVs in resident welfare associations monitor movement and community WhatsApp groups broadcast community COVID+ patient information. 

The government was an ally in the process on several occasions. The government of Punjab for example created the CovApp, which the public could use to report mass gatherings; this encouraged communities to surveil for state purposes. In the case of Rajasthan’s Raj COVID Info app, the state even released watchlists with the names and information of COVID+ patients to the masses. 

During the pandemic, surveillance took on a heinous form: data was in the hands of powerful stakeholders in the community (smartphone apps and CCTV footage were always used by the more privileged to gaze upon the marginalized) and in all these situations, there was no accountability when action was taken against the marginalized. When the entitled mobility of domestic workers, Kashmiri women, and Muslim women were restricted through the use of data, the distinction between data and bodies blurred. 

Space 3: The State

The power differences that exist between the Indian state and its citizens are harder to question because, according to the constitution, such power differences are to not exist. The state uses surveillance data to create hierarchies of citizens and thus all are not equal in the eyes of the state. Citizens should not have to negotiate with this type of unfounded power. 

During COVID, Aadhaar cards, identifiers that the state uses to surveil citizens, took on a larger role. People required them to access benefits such as rations, vaccinations etc. A transgender person would communicate their identity through their bodies, and not their Aadhaar cards. But the only way they could avail of benefits was if the state authenticated their identities through the (dysphoric) data on their Aadhaar cards.  Bodies have become so data-fied that we need data to prove our bodily identities. 

For minorities such as Muslims, police surveillance is not protective but dictative. Due to resources such as drones, police do not even need to be present to surveil these marginalities. These bodies are policed through data and technology, no longer requiring the previously present physical threshold to govern.

How do people respond to surveillance?

Data has proven to be a double-edged sword: as much as it is used for surveillance, it is also central to the resistance of surveillance. People have moved protests online; while this is convenient, it is also exclusionary since only those with access to tech can join the resistance. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that Foucaltian and Orwellian theories of “the one power entity” no longer apply since now, there are many powerful entities, exerting their control in multiple spaces. These new types and spaces and perspectives of power demand newer strategies of resistance. Technology has made surveillance ubiquitous, and the resulting asymmetry in power and knowledge lead to even lesser control for individuals in the margins, if at all they are aware of being monitored, that is. 

During the pandemic, surveillance was justified, making it harder to resist. In this post-pandemic world, surveillance continues and is even normalised, thus requiring new forms of resistance to battle it.


Surveillance is regarded as a useful tool for disease control but in the COVIDian context, data became central to surveillance and technology was used against people, thus acting as a tool of control than of liberation. The overwhelming switch to reliance on technology also creates a loss of the “care” element, since no people are involved anymore in the process. We need to reimagine data as being embodied and having intimate connections with our own physical existence. Only then will we respond to the manipulation of data with as much vehemence as we do to the manipulation of our bodies. Only then will rights and dignities remain guaranteed and intact, even during trying times like COVID-19.  


The first question in the Q&A that followed was regarding people’s difficulties with resistance to apps. Radhika responded with a few examples: In order to access the Delhi government’s COVID drives, the Aarogya Setu app was mandatory. Some citizens were able to resist this due to their negotiating power while others who wanted to couldn’t because of their marginalities. 

At the time, Muslim compliance with these procedures was especially monitored closely. What’s more, Muslims couldn’t refuse to participate in practices such as banging thalis, lighting lamps etc because they would be attacked. 

Asha workers, who are mostly lower-class women, were at the forefront of the COVID-awareness drives. They were compelled by the government to have the Aarogya Setu app on their phones which to led to several protests. Many of these workers did not have smartphones so were told to borrow phones and download the app. They had to go door-to-door to collect information for apps, and faced severe physical, sexual, and epistemic violence since people became scared that the government was at their doorstep. Muslims in particular heavily distrusted the government because they thought their data would be used for the NRC database. Thus, Asha workers were at the intersectionality of several margins (gender, caste, class). While it is the government that organises the surveillance, it is their workers and representatives that bear the brunt of the backlash. To make matters worse, it was discovered that the Asha workers weren’t being paid properly or given deserved promotions. 

The COVID migrant labourers’ crisis is still fresh in our memories. Migrant labourers from Jharkhand who were stuck in Surat were supposed to benefit from the Chief Minister’s special assistance scheme which was to facilitate their mobility. But this scheme came with the condition that the labourers must have bank accounts registered in Jharkhand to get the services. These workers had been in Surat for many years and only had Surat accounts, which proved useless at this time. Moreover, due to low digital literacy, the workers were unable to understand the error message that was displayed on the app. They each spent INR 4000-5000 to take trains and buses back home, where they opened new bank accounts to receive the scheme. But they noticed that even after several weeks no money was credited. This was because the app was designed in such a way that if registration failed, one could neither receive the money nor lodge a complaint about this issue. Thus, data acted against the interests and lived realities of people.

The next question in the Q&A was about public-private partnerships that enabled data surveillance. To answer this, Radhika explained the case of Uber requiring that drivers set up the Aarogya Setu apps on their phones while not requiring the same of passengers. In a similar fashion, Swiggy executives were mandated to have the app. But this did not benefit them at all since they had no information about whether the order was placed from a red zone or not. 

Another question was about feminist responsiveness to data and surveillance. Radhika’s reply was that feminists have seen tech as an institution of power for many decades and are vigorously studying how it affects women. The understanding, however, is tricky because people struggle to understand and tackle tech within use in civil spaces.

The final question was about Radhika’s stance on the anonymity that accompanies digital spaces. She stated that anonymity has both pros and cons: for a resistor or a victim, data anonymity may mean life or death, whereas, for perpetrators, anonymity may serve as a tool to wreak harassment.

Resource: Women’s Care Burden Has to be Recognised


Yara Tarabulsi and Lina Abou-Habib, Women’s Care Burden Has to be Recognised, Corona and Care, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 29 April 2020, https://www.fes.de/themenportal-gender-jugend-senioren/gender-matters/gender-blog/beitrag-lesen/womens-care-burden-has-to-be-recognised.

Excerpt: ‘Women working outside the home, women engaged in home-based work, and women who only work at home as carers or what is commonly referred to as “housewives” have all been affected by the pandemic – albeit in slightly different ways.  This is particularly exacerbated in situations where children have also been confined with their parents and have moved to online schooling. The ways in which teleworking and online schooling have been enforced, at least in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, have been completely oblivious of the unequal relations of power within households, especially where there is a dearth of physical space and material resources.  Poor internet connectivity and limited computer and technical hardware, for instance, have meant that choices must be made in terms of who will have priority to use the internet.  That choice rarely favours women and girls.

Resource: Justice for Women amidst COVID-19


Jeni Klugman, Justice for Women amidst COVID-19, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, May 2020, https://giwps.georgetown.edu/resource/justice-for-women-amidst-covid-19/.

Executive summary: ‘This report documents major challenges to women’s access to justice in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and puts forth recommendations to accelerate action and push back against threats to progress.

Authored by GIWPS Managing Director Dr. Jeni Klugman, the report is jointly published by UN Women, IDLO, UNDP, UNODC, World Bank, and The Pathfinders for Justice, with support by the Elders.

Curtailed access to justice institutions, rising intimate partner violence, growing injustice for women workers—including those on the frontlines of the crisis—and discriminatory laws are some of the major risks to women’s lives and livelihoods associated with COVID-19.

The crisis particularly affects vulnerable groups of women, including those who are forcibly displaced, deprived of liberty or lack a legal identity, and the impact is compounded by the digital divide according to the report.

There is also serious concern that gains made on gender equality will be rolled back during the pandemic, including through delays in reversing discriminatory laws, the enactment of new laws, and the implementation of existing legislation.

The report includes ten-point recommendations to ensure a healthy justice system, including:

  • Institute urgent judicial proceedings, especially for serious crimes including domestic violence, using technology.
  • Replace full legal trials with interim judicial orders to promote the safety and well-being of women and children. Examples include, protection orders, restraining orders, orders for child maintenance and/or custody, injunctions against evicting widows and children from the matrimonial home, and injunctions against the marriage of a child.
  • Protect women deprived of their liberty and on a case-by-case basis release womenwho are pregnant, imprisoned with children, pre-trial detainees, elderly women, those with underlying health conditions, those detained for low-risk offenses, and those with less than 12 months left to serve on their sentence.
  • Ensure access to legal aid and enable poor people to seek justice that would be otherwise out of reach. Such services should be advertised extensively—in public but also on TV, social media, and via public service announcements—so that women know about them. This also suggests a strong role for civil society organizations (CSOs), which are often better networks of information for women in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Support community-based paralegal organizations that can provide legal advice, alternative dispute resolution channels, and facilitate the dissemination of information more broadly in partnership with women in the media and local radio stations.
  • Invest in data and monitoring and evidence-based policies: Justice leaders need timely access to relevant data and evidence on the justice impacts of COVID-19 and responses to the crisis, as well as evidence on the best ways to address those impacts. Across the board, it is important to collect sex-disaggregated data to understand the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on women, especially at national and sub-national levels.

Resource: The Pandemic Has Revealed the Weakness of Strongmen


Helen Lewis, The Pandemic Has Revealed the Weakness of Strongmen, The Atlantic, 6 May 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/05/new-zealand-germany-women-leadership-strongmen-coronavirus/611161/.

Excerpt: ‘…it’s tempting to reach the conclusion that women must be better at dealing with this crisis because of their gender… This line of reasoning, however, is flawed—and potentially dangerous to women’s progress in politics. It’s not that women leaders are doing better. It’s just that strongmen are doing worse… So let’s not flip the old sexist script. After centuries of dogma that men are naturally better suited to leadership, the opposite is not suddenly true. Women leaders aren’t the cause of better government. They are a symptom of it.

Resource: COVID-19: Emerging Gender Data and Why it Matters


UN Women, COVID-19: Emerging Gender Data and Why it Matters, https://data.unwomen.org/resources/covid-19-emerging-gender-data-and-why-it-matters.

[This is a regularly-updated page]

Overview: ‘UN Women has been closely following the political and economic response to COVID-19 and how it is impacting women and girls. We are working with partners to bridge the gender data gap and deliver a more accurate picture of the gender dimension to the response so that it can be more effective for women and girls. As more gender data is produced and disaggregated, we will make it available here.

Resource: A Gendered Human Rights Analysis of Ebola and Zika


Sara E. Davies and Belinda Bennett, A Gendered Human Rights Analysis of Ebola and Zika: Locating Gender in Global Health Emergencies, International Affairs 92:5 (2016): 1041-1060.

Excerpt: ‘An effective global response to public health emergencies must engage with the rights and needs of affected women. The Ebola and Zika outbreaks provide tragic, important lessons that should not be forgotten as, it is to be hoped, these countries move towards containing the crisis. Access to essential health services during complex emergencies is determined not solely by the provision of care, but also by the status of human rights and equity in that society. The provision of health care and treatment requires understanding the conditions that determine gender-equitable health care.‘ (p.1060)


Resource: Push Aside the Panic: Thinking Bigger than Just a Health Response to COVID-19


Alfred Makavore, Push Aside the Panic: Thinking Bigger than Just a Health Response to COVID-19CARE Failing Forward (audio podcast), 26 March 2020, https://careinternational.podbean.com/e/push-aside-the-panic-thinking-bigger-than-just-a-health-response-to-covid-19/.

Overview: ‘Alfred Makavore, a key responder in CARE’s Ebola response in Sierra Leone in 2014-2015, share’s lessons about how to improve our COVID-19 response. “At first, we thought it was just a clinical problem, and we treated it like that.” Alfred encourages teams to think beyond a clinical response, to understand what communities are facing, and to build trust. “We have to push aside the panic.” Engaging governments, setting up local coordination, and trusting field teams to make decisions are some of his key recommendations.

Resource: Girls’ Education and COVID-19


Malala Fund, Girls’ Education and COVID-19: What Past Shocks Can Teach Us about Mitigating the Impact of Pandemics, 2020: Washington D.C.

Excerpt: ‘This paper uses insights from previous health and financial shocks to understand how the current global pandemic could affect girls’ education outcomes for years to come. It details how governments and international institutions can mitigate the immediate and longer-term effects of the pandemic on the most marginalised girls. The paper considers the 2014- 15 Ebola epidemic and the 2008 global financial crisis, which both have some parallels to the impact of COVID-19.

We find that marginalised girls are more at risk than boys of dropping out of school altogether following school closures and that women and girls are more vulnerable to the worst effects of the current pandemic. Drawing on data from the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, we estimate that approximately 10 million more secondary school-aged girls could be out of school after the crisis has passed, if dropouts increase by the same rate. Longer-term, poorer countries may struggle to provide sufficient financing for education, especially to support schools, teachers and students to fight reemergence of the virus and stay safe from indirect effects of further outbreaks.‘ (p.2)

Corona Challengers: Sadia Mufti


Necessity is the mother of all invention! The adage is being put to test during lockdown period, across the globe. As we battle the Corona pandemic, we are also getting to hear and see stories about some remarkable contributions by people.

At Prajnya, we wanted to specifically share stories of women change-makers that we come across. Stories of nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers, entrepreneurs, volunteers, et al, who are working, against all odds, to make a difference. We hope these stories will inform and inspire you to do your bit, even if that means just staying at home (which seems to be the biggest help you could offer at this point in time). Because, the change, truly, begins with YOU.  

We begin our ‘Corona Challengers’ series from the Valley of Kashmir where Sadia Mufti, 28, is a popular fashion designer and owner of Hangers, a boutique in Srinagar. This time, it’s not kurtis or khaftan she has innovated upon, but personal protective equipment. “We presented samples of personal protective equipment to experts in Kashmir Valley hospitals, and they have been approved for mass production. Our triple-layered masks have already been approved,” Ms. Mufti told The Hindu.

Her personal protective equipment is different from the routine supply. “It has a boot and a hood, which covers the face except the eyes, in one piece. The stitch is in such a way that it is easy for medicos to put it on.”

She said she wanted to be productive in this time of crisis. “I am fortunate enough to have the resources,” she said, getting ready to stitch over 2,000 pieces in the coming days.

Scores of women tailors have volunteered across the Valley to help in the mass production of triple-layered masks.

Peerzada Ashiq, Coronavirus | Women warriors join battle against virus in Kashmir, The Hindu, March 30, 2020.