Covid-19: The need for a gendered response

Briefing 26-02-2021

In the midst of the current pandemic, adopting a gender perspective may seem a secondary concern. However, pandemics are known to affect women and men differently, making it essential to recognise these differences in order to understand the impacts on individuals and communities and to respond effectively and equitably. There is already clear evidence that the ongoing health, social and economic crisis is having gendered impacts. Disaggregated data show that sex and gender are playing a role in exposure to the virus and risks of severe outcomes, and that some groups of women and men are particularly vulnerable. Lockdown measures have led to an increase in violence against women and disrupted access to support services. Access to sexual and reproductive healthcare has also been affected. Successive lockdowns have widened the existing gender divide in unpaid care work that was already keeping more women than men out of the labour market. Greater work-life conflict is one of the factors leading to women's employment being worse hit than men's, with potential long-term impacts on women's employment, pay and career advancement. The pandemic has also brought the issue of women's participation in decision-making to the fore. Without a gender-sensitive approach, the pandemic could have far-reaching implications, including a real risk of exacerbating gender inequalities and sending progress into reverse. At the same time, gender mainstreaming tools such as gender impact assessments and gender budgeting exist that could, if used effectively, mitigate the negative consequences and contribute to achieving gender equality. Internationally and within the European Union (EU), there have been calls for gender-sensitive emergency and long-term responses. In January 2021, the European Parliament adopted a resolution setting out recommendations on both aspects.