COVID-19 is one of several emerging infectious outbreaks in recent decades with significant public health and economic impacts. Frist it was Influenza in 1957 which created a havoc globally by killing more than a million people around the world. And, presently COVID-19, declared has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), – affecting over 2.5 million people in 185 countries/regions, with over 187,000 deaths. (COVID-19 – PAKISTAN Socio-economic Impact Assessment & Response Plan (April 2020, page no 8, on line rederived on 4.12.2020)

Today, global community is suffering from experiencing direct and indirect impacts of this pandemic in varying degrees. There is an unequivocal evidence that COVID-19 is not just a global public health emergency but is also leading the world to a major global, economic downturn, with potentially strong adverse impacts on the livelihoods of vulnerable groups. The current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact the lives of the people in Pakistan. In a country with over 212 million inhabitants, to date roughly 303 000 cases have been recorded In a country with over 212 million inhabitants, to date roughly 303 000 cases have been recorded(source: line retrieved on 8.12.2020)   In addition to the extremely  life threatening risks imposed by this virus to the human lives, there is an imminent risk to the social and economic lives of the people of Pakistan as well.

According to Human Development Index 2019,

“Pakistan’s ranking on the Human Development Index (HDI) 2019 is 152nd position out of the total 189 countries. Most alarmingly, Pakistan’s ranking is lower than all comparable regional countries of South Asia.”

In Pakistan with already very low indicators of socioeconomic development and with such a fragile development ranking an epidemic of this severity and intensity is likely to further compound pre-existing gender inequalities.

“The absence of gender equality means a huge loss of human potential and has costs for
both men and women and also for development. “Societies with a high level of gender discrimination, pay a price in more poverty, slower growth, and a lower quality
of life. Gender equality on the other hand enhances development.” (Source MOMSEN, JANET 2010, “Gender and development”, Routledge).

The Women of Pakistan who make almost half of the population of Pakistan; however, despite contributing significantly within and outside the household, generally suffer from multidimensional inequality of opportunities. And COVID in all dimensions is adding further misery to the already difficult lives of Pakistani women and girls.

Given the infectious nature of the COVID-19, in order to contain the spread of the virus, the government has instructed public and private schools to shut down across Pakistan. As observed Globally, in previous health emergencies such as the Ebola outbreak, the education system in Pakistan with low learning levels and high dropout rates is likely to be severely impacted with this pandemic. According to the data, in Pakistan, the literacy levels of both genders (72.5% males vs 52.4% females) are disproportionate. (Source UN Women)

Within the system, it is the vulnerable students, especially the girl students who are facing the most disproportionately negative impacts. Given mobility constraints, when schools are closed, due to COVID restrictions, it is observed that girls are generally given more household responsibilities vs boys and male members of the household. Because it is an understood fact that female members are the only ones responsible for domestic chores. Also, household responsibilities are not a manly job, considered undignified in the patriarchal culture of Pakistan. Prolonged closure of educational institutions could exacerbate the inequalities in educational attainment as this will result in higher rates of female absenteeism and lower rates of school completion. As the schools open a lot of girls will find it difficult to balance schoolwork and increased domestic responsibilities.

As, in Pakistan, customs and norms dictate that women and girls are the main caretakers of the household. And the stereotyped gender roles expect a woman to be unconditionally available, voiceless servant of the household. These gender roles demand from her, sacrifice in tangible as well as intangible terms for the family without even uttering single word of question or refusal. This can possibly mean giving up work/career/ignoring pending assignments academic or office/ to care for children/siblings who are   out of school due to COVID 19/or taking care of sick household members. It is a daughter’s job to assist her mother in cooking and other domestic chores as affording household help is gradually becoming a luxury beyond the affordability reach of many of the households in the country. It is observed that with the current lockdown situation the workload of household chores on women and girls has increase substantially and is further shrinking their time dedicated for learning and skills development. This will have serious consequences on the efforts of women empowerment which will not only be seen in the short run but also in medium and long run.

Another emotional burden added on the shoulders of already overburdened womenfolk, especially the married ones is the increased episodes of Domestic Policewomen stuck at home with abuser male family members who are getting increasingly frustrated by the impact of the pandemic, both economically and psychologically, have nowhere to go.

As, mostly men as primary earners in many families are feeling the financial pressure and stress more than ever due to job insecurity and uncertainty etc. Adding to the troubled situation is the issue of “Social Distancing”.  For men in our society, social distancing has also meant a drastic change in daily routine with limited time available for socializing. For most of them this is a stressful and once in lifetime experience to forcefully keep themselves stay home due to quarantine restrictions/work from home or joblessness. Consequently, Men are habitually externalizing their stress through irritability and aggression spilling into violence at times. This brunt of stress is mainly faced by the females in the family, mostly the wife and indirectly by the daughters.

According to a UNODC report titled ‘Gender and Pandemic – URGENT CALL FOR ACTION’ advocacy brief, 90% of women in Pakistan have experienced some form of domestic violence, at the hands of their husbands or families. 47% of married women have experienced sexual abuse, particularly domestic rape. Most common forms of abuse, according to the report, are Shouting or yelling (76%), Slapping (52%), Threatening (49%), Pushing (47%), Punching (40%), and Kicking (40%).



(Retrieved at 5.12.2020)

It’s necessary for Pakistan to adopt large-scale, inclusive policies to address these deep-rooted social and economic gender inequalities that have become more visible and starker during the COVID-19 crisis. If not tackled well in time, countless more girls will be left in the darkness of time, many more women will have to survive Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence by living in hell with an abusive partner/family member. Now is the time to pause for a moment and requestion our patriarchal norms where one gender is ruthlessly depriving the other gender of their constitutional, religious and moral rights.As acadamicians,researchers and development practitioners lets be united and work hard for elimination of exploitation and creating equality of opportunity as this is what out constitution says:

“The State shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfilment of the fundamental principle, from each according to his ability, to each according to his work.”(Article 3,Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan )


This article was orginally published in,D News, the Bi Annual Newsletter of Department of Development Studies Nantional University of Science and Technology,Islamabad,Pakistan