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Lockdown taking a toll on women's mental health

Lockdown taking a toll on women
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Women in Stress
Highlights

For working women, it becomes challenging to juggle both responsibilities. For home makers, the burden of the pre-existing thankless, unpaid work increases twofold. For all women, the heightened stress level of the burden of care, work and coping with the pandemic has an extremely negative impact on mental health

Unarguably, the pandemic has been devastating across the world, affecting everyone irrespective of any parameter. Dishaa Desai, psychologist and outreach associate, Mpower - The Centre, Mumbai, talks about some brutal inequalities in societies all over the world on different constraints, including the various ways in which affects women's mental health:

Domestic violence and abusive relationships While home is a safe haven where the dwellers unwind and be at peace alleviating emotional and physical stresses, however, for many, it ceases to be a place of security and turns into one of danger, with nowhere to go.

This period of quarantine has seen a twofold rise in cases of domestic violence, across India, according to the National Commission of Women (NCW). The chairperson of the NCW has reported that many women are unable to go to the police during this lockdown and also fear an increase in abuse if they do.

Forced to be at home and being disconnected with their social support network, victims of intimate partner violence find themselves completely helpless. Abuse can also take many different forms, especially when partners are forced to stay together during the lockdown. Apart from punching, slapping, throwing objects, physical abuse can also include being locked out of the house and even withholding money, food, medicine, soap, sanitiser, etc,. Psychological abuse could include using the heightened stress of the pandemic to justify the abusive behaviour; ex-partners may also use the pandemic as a reason to 'reconcile' or 'help with the kid(s)'.

Burden of care

Globally, women have been found to be the primary caretakers in home environment. Especially in India, the lockdown has a clear cut gendered lens since the burden of care falls on women and there is really no equitable distribution of responsibilities.

According to The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development's survey (2015), Indian women engage in six extra hours of unpaid care work (i.e. housework) as compared to Indian men who have been found to contribute barely an hour's work per day.

For working women, it becomes challenging to juggle both responsibilities. For home makers, the burden of the pre-existing thankless, unpaid work increases twofold. For all women, the heightened stress of the burden of care, work and coping with the pandemic has an extremely negative impact on mental health.

Disruption in women's health services

During this pandemic, all health services and resources are being diverted to deal with the outbreak and mounting cases. While this is the need of the hour, this also leads to outcomes such as a disruption in reproductive health services for women, riskier home births resulting in maternal and infant mortality, exposure to the virus whilst being in an already physically vulnerable state (i.e. being pregnant) and an unmet need for contraception (UNFPA).

On an individual level, it is equally important to view the steps you can take, as a member of your family, to ease the burden of care on the women in your family as well as being vigilant of the signs of the different types of abuse in one's own personal dynamic, family dynamic and even for fellow female friends.

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