[News] CoronaShock and Patriarchy

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 12 11:36:27 EST 2020

and Patriarchy
November 5,2020


*Preface *

*Eli Gómez Alcorta*

*Ministry of Women, Genders, and Diversity (Argentina)*

When mandatory preventative social isolation was announced in our country,
only a few weeks had passed since 8 March, the date when women’s and the
LGBTQIA+ movements once again put a political agenda and series of demands
on the table. This agenda is linked to eliminating gender-based violence
and inequality, which confront us in every aspect of life.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought visibility and clarity to many of the things
that feminist and socialist movements have been saying for some time. First
of all, that we live in a system that has reached atrocious and
unprecedented levels of inequality, exclusion, hate, and discrimination as
if it were ‘normal’ or ‘natural’. It is not an exaggeration to say that if
we don’t put an end to this ‘normalcy’, we will drive straight towards the
destruction of the planet and of humanity. Second, on a global level,
COVID-19 has also made clear the importance of the state, once again
shedding light on the vitality of state intervention — not just any kind of
intervention, but the intervention of a state that cares for people and
health and that preserves life. The pandemic has also put care work into
the spotlight like never before, shedding light on tasks that have
historically been feminised, socially and economically devalued, and which
have become increasingly precarious.

Existing inequalities remain apparent. It is not the same to experience
quarantine for those who live in houses and for those who live in shacks;
for those who have work and those who do not; for those who have access to
adequate infrastructure such as roads, internet, and transportation, and
those who do not; those who have running water and those who do not; for
women and for men; for cis women and for trans women… This inequality —
which is normalised as if it were a natural phenomenon and not a political
one — corresponds directly to the severity of the impact of today’s health
crisis felt by different sectors of society.

For women and the LGBTQIA+ community, the inequality and oppression
associated with this ‘normalcy’ are reflected by the exacerbation of
gender-based violence, the increase in poverty, and the increase and
overload of care work.

The enormous challenges that we face today are how to craft a strategy that
takes the current emergency into account and that transcends it, and how to
make sure that the impact of the pandemic doesn’t leave us even poorer,
more subjected to violence, and more exploited. At the same time, we must
work towards structural transformations that disarm relationships of power
that reproduce violence and inequality.

The role that we have as militants of popular feminism is central in the
tasks that lie ahead of us. In our country, thousands of us have met for
over thirty-four years[1] to discuss a political agenda for the women’s and
feminist movement, sharing with each other and organising ourselves in
various parts of the country. We have a history of labour organisation, of
fighting for our rights and fighting for our work to be recognised. We see
ourselves reflected in the struggle for human rights in our country, in the
*madres* and *abuelas*[2] who are part of the history of our movement.

In the last few years, the women’s movement has gained resounding strength.
For five years, the *Ni Una Menos *(‘Not One Less’) movement has erupted in
the streets of Argentina, putting on the agenda the urgent need of public
policies to prevent gender-based violence and to provide aid to those who
are subjected to such violence, demanding *no nos maten más*: stop killing
us. With the *Cambiemos *(‘Let’s Change’) party in office[3] and the
advance of neoliberalism, these debates of the movement lined up behind a
new agenda. When there is an economic crisis, there is also a feminisation
of poverty and of neoliberal policies, which hit women and the LGBTQIA+
community even harder, further exacerbating inequality. But the movement
responded with organised resistance. The women’s movement led the first
national women’s strike in 2016 and the massive ‘green wave’ during the
debate on abortion in 2018, making it clear that the women’s and the
LGBTQIA+ movement is among the most dynamic actors of our time.

Standing on the shoulders of the struggles that came before us and the
sisters of our *Patria Grande* (‘Great Homeland’)[4] and of the world*, *we
must work to emerge from this crisis better off than we are now, to put
everything up for debate, and to assure ourselves that this debate comes
from a popular, progressive, and feminist consensus.

In our series on CoronaShock, we have discussed how a virus that struck the
world with such gripping force has swiftly laid bare today’s social,
political, and economic issues; COVID-19 has exposed the crumbling
bourgeois social order while shedding light on the humanising resistance in
socialist parts of the world.

In the midst of this global health, political, economic, and social crisis,
it is often women who bear the brunt of the cataclysmic shifts in daily
life, from the increasing care work of children, the elderly, and the sick
to skyrocketing incidences of gender-based violence, as women and LGBTQIA+
people are quarantined with their abusers. As countries across the world
experience different stages of the pandemic, it looks like 2020 will be
shaped by an attempt to adapt to and survive in this new reality.

For months now, several countries around the world have been experimenting
with different methods and stages of physical distancing and
shelter-in-place orders. Some have begun to loosen lockdown restrictions
and reopen the economy, while others are trying to flatten the rising curve
of new infections. Uncertainty looms over how long it will take to recover
from these incalculable social and economic losses as new challenges emerge
for societies at large.

In this study, we seek to understand the current health crisis more
comprehensively, which means that we must also understand it as a social
and economic crisis. First, we will address the social and labour impacts
of the crisis and look at the consequences for workers who are on the
frontline of the pandemic: healthcare and essential workers, informal
workers, and the most vulnerable members of society. Second, we will
address care work as well as the impact of the lockdown and physical
distancing measures on those workers. Third, we will address the increase
in patriarchal violence during the quarantine, providing a historical
analysis and connecting the latest increase in violence with recent
political events, especially in the Global South. At the end of this study,
we present a list of people’s demands that have been put forward by women’s
and feminist organisations across the world to build a more just, humane,
and equal society as we face this global crisis.
*I. The Social and Labour Impact of CoronaShock*

We are living through the worst crisis in the history of capitalism. This
current crisis was sparked by a small, invisible virus that nevertheless
led to the ‘largest inadvertent general strike in modern history’ as it
forced the planet into lockdown, in the words
of Vijay Prashad, director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social
Research. At least half of the global labour force is out of work and/or
staying at home, which has had far-reaching effects on the world’s economic
growth rates. Labour produces value, and when workers are forced into
lockdown, no economy escapes the repercussions. In a globalised world, when
supply chains and industrial plants are forced to shut down either part or
all of their operations, the economic impact becomes catastrophic for all
countries — especially those in the Global South.

The implementation of the neoliberal model has made it even more complex to
tackle the challenges that we face today. As this model promotes tax
reductions, privatisation, and outsourcing, states become more and more
debilitated, cut their budgets, and reduce social investments. Austerity
policies, a minimal state, and the weakening of labour unions and social
organisations have compromised the social and public resources that are
necessary to tackle the pandemic, whether in the realm of healthcare,
social services, or services dedicated to assist the most vulnerable
segments of society. Under these conditions, healthcare and social service
systems have collapsed, lessening access to essential humanitarian aid.
*The Consequences of Neoliberal Expropriation*

Health is not only about the individual; it is a complex, socially
determined process. This aspect is often left out of the discussion on
public health, which is centred instead on biomedical views that reduce
health issues, prevention strategies, and treatment processes to the
individual level. The neoliberal project gravely and severely threatens
health as a fundamental universal and social right. Human rights,
universality, equity, coverage, primary healthcare, and other concerns have
been co-opted and transformed by neoliberal ideology.

Neoliberal ideology, which increased its hegemony in Latin America in the
1990s following the Washington Consensus, has successfully promoted the
idea that the problems faced by Latin America were caused by the allegedly
oversized public sector, and that structural fiscal adjustments and the
privatisation of state-run services were necessary to solve those issues.
After decades of neoliberal transformations and structural adjustment
policies that were marked by the implementation of new technologies and the
expropriation of common resources and goods, market fundamentalism
ultimately prevailed. This led to partial, short-term interventions at the
cost of efficient, sustainable, long-term public policies. In the midst of
this political and economic climate, and based on the document
‘Investing in Health’ (1993), the World Bank intervened in the area of
public health by forging an agenda and a model for reforms that lean toward
the privatisation and commodification of healthcare.

The fight against health crises such as the one that we are facing
today has been severely stunted by the destruction, dismantling,
dispossession, and trade-off of public healthcare systems. The scenes of
desperation seen across the world of dead bodies left in the streets after
local systems collapse — as in the case of Guayaquil, Ecuador, or the mass
graves dug in many Latin American countries — expose the depth of
neoliberal dispossession in the region. The Americas have the largest
number of reported COVID-19 cases of any region in the world, followed by
other countries in the Global South such as India.

The World Health Organisation estimates
that healthcare workers account for 10 per cent of COVID-19 infections
across the world. It is clear that being on the frontlines results in a
greater risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and of being exposed to
excessive stress, combined with other feelings of uncertainty. This reality
predates the pandemic but has only become more dire, provoked by issues
such as a shortage of personal protective equipment, long work hours, and
the imminent risk of becoming unemployed or being forced to take informal
jobs. In addition to this stress, women health workers continue to carry
out care work in their private lives, often including housework and child
and/or elder care.

What makes certain workers in the healthcare field — from cleaning staff to
informal care workers — even more vulnerable is how invisible they are to
the health sector and society at large, a reality rooted in historical and
social factors intersecting class, gender, and race. This means that these
workers hold less control over their working conditions and do not benefit
from the same regulations and state protections, therefore facing greater
health and security risks. As the precarity and fear of loss of income loom
large, workers are less likely to organise and unionise, becoming more
subjected to overexploitation, poor working conditions, and job insecurity.

The pandemic has clearly exposed the longstanding attack on healthcare and
on the efforts to maintain free, public, quality service for the people,
and has unveiled the gender gap among the most vulnerable health workers.
We have no choice but to fight for a world where workers are acknowledged
and gender discrimination is abolished — not just by cheering from our
windows, but by winning tangible victories for the working class.
*Women Healthcare Workers on the Frontlines*

Women make up the majority of healthcare workers, especially in nursing.
According to the United Nations
(UN), some estimates say that women represent 67 per cent of the global
healthcare workforce. Women also constitute the majority of workers in the
cleaning industry and, notably, in social services (90 per cent). In the
case of Brazil, 2 million of the 2.7 million people employed by the
country’s public healthcare system (the Unified Health System, SUS), or
75.4 per cent, are women. In terms of racial demographics, 34 per cent of
the SUS workforce is black; 8 per cent are black men, and 26 per cent are
black women.

Despite the fact that women make up the majority of the workforce, the
global healthcare industry is primarily led by men. According to the World
Health Organisation
(WHO), 69 per cent of global health organisations are headed by men; only
20 per cent have reached gender parity on their boards and 25 per cent have
reached gender parity in senior management positions. The WHO also showed
that, while women in this sector work longer hours, they are paid 11 per
cent less than men.

In Argentina, the healthcare sector has historically been characterised by
the feminisation of technical, operational, and cleaning work and the
masculinisation of professional and leadership positions. Available data
shows that 82 per cent of nursing undergraduates, nurse technicians, and
nursing assistants are women. In recent decades, there has been a process
of the ‘feminisation of the medical profession’, a shift from the
historically male-dominated field. Today, women make up 70 per cent of
healthcare professionals and the majority of medical students and
graduates. However, only 40 per cent of leadership positions are held by
women. In the private sector, the gender gap is even wider: only 13 per
cent of management positions are held by women workers.

Despite the process of feminisation of these occupations, the share of
women in leadership and management positions has not increased across
healthcare institutions, whether in hospitals, local and national
government health departments, professional associations, scientific
organisations, or labour unions. This also has a profound impact on the
wage gap, as women are paid 10 to 20 per cent less than men in the
healthcare industry, according to a 2018 report
by the United Nations Development Programme (Argentina).
*Wages, Race, Gender, and the Invisible Side of Health Work*

As in other fields, discrimination plays a major role in the management of
healthcare workers — a reality that arises out of the patriarchal and
neocolonial roots that shape the healthcare sector. The impact is evident
in gaps in pay, educational level, and leadership positions between men and
women and across racial lines. This reality underlines the need to
implement active policies that would lead to gender and racial equality.

Around the world and in every industry, women are still paid 20 per cent
less than men for doing the same work, and they are disproportionately
employed in lower-paying jobs. Women are still regarded as less competent
in the workplace, enjoy less prestige, are less likely to get promoted, and
have less access to basic labour protections such as unionisation, safety,
security, and decent wages. In Brazil, for example, there is a sevenfold
gap between the lowest and highest-paying jobs in the public healthcare
system. Overall, women are paid 75
<https://www.dieese.org.br/notatecnica/2020/notaTec236Saude.html>per cent
<https://www.dieese.org.br/notatecnica/2020/notaTec236Saude.html> of what
men make, and black women are paid as little as 60 per cent of what white
men earn.

In addition to the disparity in pay between men and women, there is also a
disparity in access to formal healthcare job opportunities. According to Women
in Global Health <https://www.womeningh.org/5-asks>, while female
healthcare workers contribute to around US$3 trillion of the global GDP,
almost half of that work goes unacknowledged or unpaid; much of this unpaid
health work is carried out by women. In Argentina, while 77.1
of healthcare workers have formal jobs and pay into pension schemes, the
rate among male workers is higher, at 81.3 per cent. There is a 5.5
gap between the number of men and women who are registered as medical
professionals — such as doctors — and other medical workers such as nurses,
social workers, and custodians, which in turn has implications for the wage
discrepancies between men and women in the healthcare sector.

The role of women workers in popular economies[5] has also come into the
limelight during the pandemic, especially in working-class areas. The
health crisis has taken on a distinct shape in urban settlements and
peripheries — where people do not have access to basic utility and public
services, including water, electricity, and sanitation — creating a
breeding ground for the virus to spread in precarious living conditions. It
is the residents of these areas who most urgently need access to basic
healthcare, information, and services during the pandemic.

In Argentina, women workers are on the frontline in working-class
neighbourhoods, promoting community health and surveying and aiding older
adults and individuals who live alone and who are at greater risk. In
coordination with health centres, hospitals, and healthcare programmes,
these women go from door to door testing residents and guiding individuals
and families who have to self-quarantine. Not only are they managing the
health crisis — they are also providing food supplies, essential goods, and
overall care to their communities. But these community health workers — who
often provide primary healthcare but are not registered in the healthcare
system — are also generally unacknowledged and unpaid.

In South Africa, Community Health Workers (CHWs) — who have played a
fundamental role on the frontline yet often have temporary contracts —
staged a protest in July 2020, calling for full-time employment and greater
recognition of their contributions in public health institutions. ‘How can
we be relied on to screen and test communities for COVID-19, yet not be
allowed to share our perspectives from the frontline at health forums?’
Noluthando Mhlongo, a CHW from KwaZulu-Natal.

Efforts to bring these realities and this essential work to the fore are
now starting to shape the policy conversation, in particular in terms of
advocating for professional training and to make sure they are paid. We
must give credence to their demands to be paid and recognised for their
work, and to be treated equally.
*Informal Workers and Unemployment*

Since the onset of the pandemic, most people have been faced with the stark
reality of how to provide for themselves and their families as the economy
shrinks further and further. This reality is particularly stark for
informal and unemployed workers and for women. Before the pandemic, the
informal economy was predominantly made up of women. Now, masses of women
workers are losing their jobs and income in the midst of the pandemic.

According to the International Labour Organisation
(ILO), women are disproportionately employed in many of the industries most
severely affected by the crisis. Nearly 510 million (40 per cent) of all
women employed globally work in the four most affected industries: hotels,
restaurants, retail, and manufacturing. Women are also predominantly
employed in domestic work, healthcare, and social services, putting them at
a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and of losing their source of income
if they become infected. They are also less likely to have access to social

The ILO indicates
<https://www.ilo.org/brasilia/noticias/WCMS_744304/lang--pt/index.htm> that
the crisis could cause an increase in relative poverty rates in Latin
America and the Caribbean, especially among the number of informal workers.
Informal employment is characterised by unstable jobs, low income, and no
social protection to face health emergencies or situations such as
unemployment and a lack of labour rights.

When the formal sector closes its doors to women, they are left with no
other alternative but the informal sector (which women have historically
been forced to occupy), in which they are subjected to precarious working
conditions and low pay. Women are hit especially hard as city authorities
clamp down on street vendors and other informal workers whose livelihoods
depend on having access to public spaces. According to available data
it is estimated that around 30–40 per cent of the total trade within the
Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is associated with informal
cross-border traders. In South Africa, informal and transborder trading has
come to a grinding halt across the country; thirty-five land border posts
were shut down, as well as other posts with neighbouring countries, such as
Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Scenes of women shutting down their fruit stands
have become common in places such as the border town of Komatipoort in
South Africa. These predominantly women workers are left with no income;
all they are left with is the uncertainty of when they will be able to
resume their work.

Even before the pandemic, more than 1.6 billion people — half of the global
workforce — worked in the informal sector, constantly faced with the
possibility of losing their livelihoods. As the United Nations estimates
<https://news.un.org/pt/story/2020/06/1717342>, informal workers around the
world lost 60 per cent of their income in the first month of the pandemic.
The ILO estimates
<https://www.ilo.org/brasilia/noticias/WCMS_744304/lang--pt/index.htm> that
these figures are even worse in Latin America and the Caribbean, where
informal workers’ income has been cut by 80 per cent in the same time
frame. Fifty-nine percent of informal workers in the region are
self-employed, while 31 per cent are employed by micro and small
enterprises. In Brazil alone, more than 600,000 micro and small enterprises
have been forced out of business since the pandemic began, and unemployment
is expected to increase twofold or maybe even fourfold by the end of the

In India, according to the ILO Monitor
nearly 90 per cent of the workforce is based in the informal sector, making
it the biggest workforce in the economy. The report also indicates that the
roughly 400 million workers belonging to India’s informal sector will
experience extreme poverty as the crisis intensifies
The precariousness of the informal sector disproportionately impacts women; 94
per cent
of the women who are counted as being part of the workforce in India remain
concentrated in the informal sector. Despite the huge number of workers
hailing from India’s informal sector — which contributes significantly to
the country’s GDP — their welfare has been tremendously neglected. Workers
in India are facing additional challenges as labour laws are being weakened
under the ruling government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP), including an attack on the eight-hour workday.

The ILO Monitor also highlights
that ‘94 per cent of the world’s workers were living in countries with some
sort of workplace closures’, many of whom have lost their jobs during the
pandemic. Amidst this are mounting levels of anxiety
<https://frontline.thehindu.com/cover-story/article31869839.ece> and
depression brought on by the pandemic and the increasingly precarious
situation facing informal sector workers. On a global level, ‘More than
half of young people surveyed had become vulnerable to anxiety or
depression since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. One in six young
people surveyed had stopped working, and 60 per cent of women and 53 per
cent of men in this survey viewed their career prospects with uncertainty
and fear. Young people who had discontinued working ran the highest risk of
anxiety and depression’.

The emergence of a new kind of gig economy is further institutionalising
precarity and informality. This new phenomenon, also referred to as the ‘
of work, is the result of decades of changes in and the deterioration of
working conditions and job security. This process maximised
overexploitation by creating so-called *‘*just-in-time
*’* labour, a system that requires workers to be constantly ready to report
to work, but only calls them to work when there is demand. They are paid by
the hour, or even the minute, for the time it takes to make a delivery or
finish a temporary service, which externalises the cost of downtime to the
workers rather than the company. This has had a disproportionate impact on
young workers as well as poor women (mostly women of colour and/or
migrants) and has become an unreliable source of employment for a
tremendous number of people as an alternative to the shortage of jobs and
lack of sources of income.

As these rates continue to increase, more and more people will be forced
into poverty across the world, hitting women especially hard. They manage
to scrape by with informal jobs, working in public spaces as street
vendors, garbage collectors, recyclers, small-scale farmers, etc. Physical
distancing and lockdown measures undermine the daily livelihoods of these
women — who are often the heads of their household — as they cannot work
from home, remotely, or online, and because many of them rely on busy
streets, public marketplaces, and small businesses.
*Paid Domestic Work in the Global South*

The 67 million
domestic workers across the world account for a key sector of the informal
workforce. This sector of the workforce — 80 per cent of whom are women —
accounts for the vast majority of the informal sector in much of the world.
In addition to suffering from many of the same conditions as other informal
workers — such as job insecurity and precarious conditions — domestic
workers are often deprived of the scarce protections afforded to other
precarious workers.

In India, most domestic workers are women and girls who have neither
bargaining power nor any guarantee of employment. They do not have any of
the social security benefits or legal protections that are guaranteed to
other workers — even those in the informal sector — such as a minimum wage
or allowances. High rates of illiteracy and a low level of formal education
have made them even more vulnerable to horrendous working conditions, job
insecurity, and low wages. The pandemic has exacerbated
this vulnerability, as many have lost work or not been paid for their
services. According to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), the official
count <https://thewire.in/labour/covid-19-lockdown-domestic-workers> of
domestic workers in India is 4.2 million. However, according to some studies
<https://thewire.in/labour/covid-19-lockdown-domestic-workers>, the actual
number is likely to be between 50 to 90 million — over ten times the
official count.

In Latin America, one-third of informal workers are domestic workers. In
Brazil, women account for 97 per cent of domestic workers, earning 78.44
per cent of what men are paid for the same work — even though male domestic
workers comprise only 1 per cent of all men who work outside the home.
Among the approximately 7 million women domestic workers in the country,
nearly 5 million have no job security (and are therefore subjected to
informal employment) and are hired as day labourers. These informal
domestic workers are paid even less, earning 60 per cent less than formally
employed domestic workers.

In South Africa, the more than one million domestic workers, who are also
disproportionately women, account for 8 per cent of the country’s
workforce. Some domestic workers live in their employers’ homes, while
others endure long commutes every day from the outskirts of large cities or
neighbouring towns. While some have been granted paid leave and can stay at
home with their families during the pandemic, most day labourers who carry
out informal domestic work cannot survive if they practise physical
distancing. They are faced with two options: following public safety
protocols, staying home in the face of COVID-19, and facing possible
starvation and eviction, or breaking the guidelines, increasing the risk of
infection, and potentially securing a source of income.

As the economic crisis deepens, domestic workers are haunted by the
uncertainty of whether or not they will still have a job after the
quarantine. According to South African domestic workers’ unions
the sector is one of the most susceptible to cuts as middle-class families
who employ them struggle to get by. Undocumented migrant women are
especially vulnerable.

Though the governments of several countries announced economic relief
plans, they were slow to introduce measures for the informal sector,
postponed their implementation, and cut down the amount of aid that would
be provided. Meanwhile, the rich have only been getting richer during the
pandemic. A recent Oxfam report showed
<https://www.oxfam.org.br/quem-paga-a-conta/> that, in Latin America and
the Caribbean, for example, the wealth accrued by the richest groups
between March (the beginning of the pandemic) and June of this year is
equivalent to one-third of the funds provided for economic stimulus
packages implemented in the region. The fortune of Latin America’s 73
billionaires surged by US$48.2 billion in this time period, while massive
numbers of people in the region lost their jobs and sources of income.
Between March and late July, eight new billionaires emerged in the region —
one every two weeks. Meanwhile, 40 million people are expected to lose
their jobs and 52 million will be forced into poverty in Latin America and
the Caribbean in 2020.

The neoliberal state is not at the service of humanity. The capitalist
logic disregards domestic workers, informal workers, and the unemployed; it
promises them the opportunity of success while delivering only increased
exploitation, lower pay, and more precarious lives. It cannot support them
through hunger and misery. This is a world where all the ‘nobodies’ die, as
Eduardo Galeano so eloquently wrote:

*The nobodies: nobody’s children, owners of nothing. (…)*

*Who do not appear in the history of the world,* *but in the police blotter
of the local paper.*

*The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.*

*Rising **Social Vulnerability: Poverty, Evictions, and Forced Migration*

The cruelty of the capitalist system and capitalist states has driven
humanity to its limit in the era of COVID-19. Though there was hope that
the poverty rate among women would fall
<https://news.un.org/pt/story/2020/09/1725032> by 2.7 per cent between 2019
and 2021, as a result of the pandemic the rate is now projected to
*increase* by 9.1 per cent. This means that, by 2021, 96 million people
will fall into extreme poverty, 47 million of them women and girls. This
will increase the total number of women and girls in extreme poverty to 435
million people.

This is the result of policies adopted by capitalist states in this period,
driven by a concern for profits rather than a concern for humanity. This
direction stands in sharp contrast to the policies implemented by parts of
the world with socialist governments, from Kerala (India) to Venezuela to
Vietnam, as shown in a recent study
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/studies-3-coronashock-and-socialism/> by
Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

Among the heartless policies implemented during this period are the
evictions of individuals, families, and entire communities in the midst of
the pandemic. Women and children have lost their homes, and, as a result,
their livelihood, as was the case with families brutally evicted
from an MST encampment
in Brazil in August of this year. The evictions that are underway in South
Africa, as well as the forced migration in India after the lockdown was
announced with little notice or state support, are two examples of the
reality faced by the majority of the world’s people in capitalist states in
the midst of the pandemic.

In India, the first phase of the lockdown was announced on 23 March 2020
with merely four hours’ notice, lasting for twenty-one days. The lockdown,
which would be continually extended, completely lacked a proper roadmap for
implementation; the questions of how people could abide by the lockdown,
where to go if they were left stranded, and how to feed themselves and meet
their basic needs for survival with a sudden loss of income were left
dangling in the air. As a result, India witnessed the biggest on-foot
since the Great Partition, when the subcontinent was divided into India and
Pakistan in 1947. While migration due to a lack of opportunities is not
new, the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have brought this hardship to
light. According to the Economic Survey (2017), roughly 139 million
seasonal or circular migrants in India perform essential work that allows
the rest of the economy to run, from factories to office buildings.

Despite this, migrants are often excluded from various government schemes.
Many are from rural areas but have moved to cities to find work, and they
rely on rented rooms for lodging and lack savings and regular pay. A number
of reports <https://www.thetricontinental.org/dossier-28-coronavirus/>
surfaced after the lockdown that portrayed the sufferings of the migrant
workers who were left stranded in big metropolitan cities with no lodging,
no food, and no income or savings to get home. Tens of thousands were
forced to walk hundreds of kilometres without any transport facilities or
other means to return to their villages and hometowns during the initial
period of the lockdown.

Identifying the government’s failure to respond to the situation of migrant
labourers, the Supreme Court intervened and issued its first order
on 26 May, followed by an interim order
on 28 May and the full order
on 5 June. The orders emphasised the lapses where the government failed to
provide adequate means to the stranded migrant workers and failed to
facilitate their means of transport during the lockdown. As reported by PRS
Legislative Research, the Supreme Court ordered
the central and the state governments to take responsibility for the
migrant crisis through a series of measures. This included providing free
food to stranded migrants, mandating that the state receiving migrants pay
for their transportation as soon as possible and within fifteen days of
issuing the order on 9 June, and ensuring that migrant workers not pay
train or bus fare.

Despite these orders, India’s situation continues to be grim as millions of
working-class people suffer and struggle every day for their survival. The
report <http://centreforequitystudies.org/reports/> ‘Labouring Lives:
Hunger, Precarity and Despair amid the Pandemic’ documents the response of
a number of migrant workers and sheds light on the problems that they face.
One stranded migrant recounted that:

*Bhagwam bharose chal rha hai kyunki sarkar se koi umeed hai nahi; woh bas
ghosana kr deti hai, mara jata hai gareeb *(‘We are left to fend for
ourselves because we don’t have any expectations from the government. They
just make sudden announcements; it is the poor who pay the price)’*.*

A similar situation has occurred in South Africa during the pandemic as
evictions are carried out throughout the country. In all of the major
cities across the country, municipal governments have evicted people living
in shacks in contravention both of the country’s laws, which prohibit
evictions carried out without a court order, and of the rules governing the
lockdown, which include a moratorium on evictions. In Durban, Abahlali
baseMjondolo, a movement of shack dwellers that is the largest popular
movement to have emerged in the country since the end of apartheid, has
been subjected to daily evictions during which there has been considerable
state violence; at times, live ammunition has been fired at residents. The
movement has more than 75,000 members in good standing in Durban as of this
year, the majority of whom are women, and in many cases mothers, fighting
to protect their homes.

Abahlali’s women’s organisation has issued two statements elaborating the
gendered impact of evictions: ‘Why this Suffering?
<http://abahlali.org/node/17098/>’ and ‘Sekwanele! Enough is enough!
<http://abahlali.org/node/17049/>’. In the first statement, the women
declare that:

We are afraid of the coronavirus, but there is no virus worse than not
having a place to stay. There is no virus worse than armed men attacking
and destroying your home. There is no virus worse than armed men shooting
at your family, including children and old people. There is no virus worse
than having to sleep outside, where there is always the fear of rape. There
is no virus worse than our children waking up at night crying and shouting
in fear.

Together, these statements note that evictions place women at a very high
risk of sexual assault when they have to sleep out in the open after
evictions. Evictions cause tremendous stress and anxiety for children, the
impact of which is largely managed by women, and some women have lost male
partners due to such state violence.

Ordinary forms of organisation such as meetings, street protests, and the
like are impossible during the shutdown. It is incredibly difficult to
access legal support or to prepare for court actions for a number of
reasons: it is difficult to travel, police stations have refused to certify
documents and to sign affidavits, and so on. For women who no longer have
any income during the shutdown, online organisation is also impossible. It
is vitally important that organisations staffed by middle-class gender
activists remain acutely aware of just how difficult it is for women who
have lost their income during this crisis to organise under the lockdown.

Holding the line of the fragile gains made by grassroots women’s rights
activists in previous waves of struggle will require focus and fortitude.
It will also require that an incisive gender lens be cast on every move by
the government and the state in the coming months.
*The Impact of CoronaShock on LGBTQIA+ People*

As we have discussed, the impact of COVID-19 is far from equal in
communities across the globe. The worst effects of the virus have been felt
by marginalised communities along the lines of class, race, sexual
orientation, gender, and — notably — gender identity. The pre-existing
conditions caused by transphobia, heavily compounded by class and race, put
transgender people in the crosshairs of COVID-19. In this section, we will
briefly outline some of major challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ and especially
the transgender community across the world in the midst of the COVID-19

The first challenge in measuring the impact of COVID-19 on the transgender
community is that data is largely unavailable. This is no accident: despite
the objective impacts of discrimination, patriarchal violence, and
marginalisation on the material lives of transgender people, they remain
largely invisible. In the United States, California
became one of the few states to collect data on the impact of the pandemic
on the transgender community in July. In Brazil, federal data on the 12.9
million unemployed <https://www.ilga-lac.org/coronapapers.pdf> leaves out
any mention of transgender people, as do government reports of the 53 per
increase in homelessness in the city of São Paulo over the last four years
(from 15.9 thousand people in 2015 compared to 42.3 thousand people in
2019). While it is impossible to fully quantify the impact of the pandemic
on transgender people, support networks in the transgender community see
this reality in their lives and on the streets, pointing
<https://www.ilga-lac.org/coronapapers.pdf> to disproportionately high
numbers of transgender people among the unemployed and unhoused.

This disparity starts early in life, as many LGBTQIA+ and especially
transgender children are expelled
from their homes by unsupportive families, resulting in a lower level of
education and professional skills required by much of the formal sector — a
factor further compounded by discrimination. Transgender people are often
forced to stay in the closet or risk losing their jobs, leading to much
higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicide. One survey
<https://www.huesped.org.ar/noticias/informe-situacion-trans/> of 498
transgender people (452 transgender women and 46 transgender men) reported
that, in Argentina, 40 per cent transgender men have attempted suicide at
some point in their lives, and one-third of transgender women have
attempted suicide, beginning on average at the age of 13 for transgender
men and 16 for transgender women. Another survey
in the United States among 27,715 transgender people found that 40 per cent
of those surveyed had attempted suicide at some point in their lifetime — 8
times higher than the rate of the population as a whole. As many schools
shut down and pivot to online learning, transgender children in
unsupportive home environments remain trapped with their abusers.

In the era of COVID-19, that means that unhoused children and adults are at
a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 and have a lower level of access to
care if they contract the virus. Some accounts
point out that, unlike many migrants, who scrambled
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/dossier-28-coronavirus/> to travel home
in great numbers with scarce funds in the midst of tremendous adversity,
transgender children and adults often have no home or family to travel to.
Many transgender people are migrants
themselves, as we have seen with the crisis at the United States-Mexico
border, where migrants who survive the treacherous journey are kept in
squalid, overcrowded detention centres.

In South Africa, COVID-19 has brought such complex ongoing struggles for
sexual and gender minority refugees to light. Victor Chikalogwe, the gender
and LGBTQIA+ refugee project coordinator at People Against Suffering,
Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), notes that the severe and prolonged trauma
that queer refugees experienced in their home countries is compounded once
individuals attempt to settle in South Africa. In an article
in *New Frame*, Chikalogwe notes that, ‘unlike many refugees who can rely
on the support of their communities or compatriots, it’s not usually
possible for sexual and gender minority refugees to do that. So without
that support, it can be much harder for them’.

Unsurprisingly, given this reality, transgender people are
disproportionately unhoused. According to one survey
in Buenos Aires (Argentina), 65 per cent of transgender people live in
precarious, state-subsidised hotel rooms inhabited by people who cannot
afford rent; 22.5 per cent rent their homes; and 6.6 per cent live in
shelters or on the street — only 5.9 per cent own their own home.
Discrimination plays a large role, as transgender people are often denied
stable housing opportunities or faced with predatory landlordism and
exorbitant fees. Florencia, a transgender woman, recounts that, ‘We don’t
have proof of income, and we are faced with the stigma that transgender
women will rent and then convert the place into a brothel, so they charge
us double or triple what they charge others in rent’.

In Hyderabad (India), posters warned that talking to transgender people
might expose them to contracting COVID-19. Based on nothing but transphobia
and fear, such rumours have nevertheless had concrete consequences: as a
result, *The Hindu* reports
<https://frontline.thehindu.com/dispatches/article31463945.ece>, ‘housing
complexes ask[ed] transgenders to vacate their rented accommodation’.

Transgender people are also systematically excluded from the formal labour
market and are most often left with the option of sex work or begging. For
example, shortly after South Africa was placed under a national lockdown in
March 2020, the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT)
on 6 May that sex workers, many of whom are transgender, were ‘the most
marginalised of all workers because their profession is not recognised as
work in South Africa’. According to Larissa Heüer, Academic Associate at
the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, sex workers’
illegal status renders them especially vulnerable to abuse by police,
healthcare providers, and clients. Heüer highlighted how sex workers’ lack
of access to justice creates poor and dangerous working conditions and
furthers their continued stigmatisation within South African society. The
loss of income precipitated by the pandemic only aggravated already
worsening conditions and crises such as the loss of shelter and the
inability to access food, medication, and other basic necessities.

In Argentina, 90 per cent
of transgender women work or have worked as sex workers, and only one in
ten transgender women and men have some form of retirement benefit
<https://www.huesped.org.ar/noticias/informe-situacion-trans/>. In the words
<https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-52716776> of one Panamanian sex worker,
Monica, who supports her family and two sisters with her income, ‘many
transgender people work as sex workers here in the city. Is it our first
option? No. But it is regular work and it means I can take care of my
family’. Like street vendors, the impact of physical distancing and
quarantine has essentially evaporated the income of sex workers and beggars.

Compounding this is the fact that many transgender people do not have basic
identification documentation and, as Divya Trivedi of *Frontline *writes
<https://frontline.thehindu.com/dispatches/article31463945.ece> on the
situation of the transgender community in India, they ‘therefore remain
outside the coverage of government social security schemes like rations and
pensions, making it impossible to survive in these difficult times of
lockdown’. This lack of documentation also excludes
<https://frontline.thehindu.com/dispatches/article31463945.ece> them from
basic aid programmes, such as the scarce financial and food assistance
provided by the government, as well as government social security schemes
such as pensions.

In Brazil, much of the LGBTQIA+ and in particular transgender community
does not have the necessary identification documentation to access the
little aid provided by the government. Transgender people are among the 40
per cent of the black population in Brazil that is unable to access the
internet, providing a huge barrier to sign up for the aid to begin with.

Excluded from the formal workforce, expelled from family support networks,
and denied government aid, transgender people are much more likely to
suffer from pre-existing medical conditions and less likely to receive
medical care should they fall ill. In Brazil, the average life expectancy
for transgender people is *35-years-old, *compared to the average of
76.3-years-old for the general population, according to the National
Association of Transgender People (*Associação Nacional de Travestis e

According to the World Health Organisation
<https://www.who.int/hiv/topics/transgender/about/en/>, on a global level,
transgender women are ‘around 49 times more likely to be living with HIV
than other adults of reproductive age with an estimated worldwide HIV
prevalence of 19%’. This disparity is even higher in some countries, where
the HIV prevalence rate among transgender women is 80 times higher than the
rate among the general adult population. Those who are HIV/AIDS positive
may have a compromised immune system, putting them at a higher risk of
dying from COVID-19, as one report <https://transequality.org/covid19>

In Brazil, 60 per cent <https://www.ilga-lac.org/coronapapers.pdf> of those
killed by HIV/AIDS are black homosexual men. Following a common theme, the
WHO notes that there is little data available on HIV rates among
transgender men. Furthermore, many HIV-positive people do not disclose
their status for fear of discrimination, putting formal estimates at risk
of underreporting. The lack of access to stable jobs and health services
contributes to such illnesses often going untreated or undertreated and
being more likely to get pushed to the side
<https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/LGBT/LGBTIpeople_ES.pdf> as the
treatment of COVID-19 cases takes priority.

Furthermore, historic barriers such as discrimination
keep many transgender people from seeking medical care. One study
<https://www.huesped.org.ar/noticias/informe-situacion-trans/> in Argentina
shows that, up until the recent passage of the Gender Identity Law
(2012), seven out of ten transgender people relied on the public health
system, and eight out of ten transgender people experienced discrimination
based on their gender identity (though this number has decreased to three
out of ten after the implementation of this law). Walking into a hospital
to seek care often means being subjected to harassment, sneers, denial of
care, and even physical and sexual abuse

Exclusion from healthcare is further compounded by what some refer to as a ‘
transgenocide <https://www.ilga-lac.org/coronapapers.pdf>’, officially
sanctioned by the state and public policies. One recent example in the
United States, where the Trump administration attempted to roll back
non-discrimination protections for transgender people in healthcare in
June, resulted in a record level of calls
to transgender crisis lines, which had already skyrocketed by 40 per cent
since the beginning of the pandemic. Though a judge halted
Trump’s efforts in August, his administration has succeeded in rolling back
other protections
and the constant threat of increased precariousness looms over the
transgender community.

Some countries, on the other hand, have implemented public policies to
protect the LGBTQIA+ community during the pandemic, in particular to
address the precarious situation faced by many transgender people. In
Argentina, the Ministry of Women, Gender, and Diversity, in coordination
with organisations of civil society, has reinforced food assistance to
LGBTQIA+ people by delivering food during the quarantine. Along the same
lines, transgender people have been incorporated into social assistance
programmes implemented by the national government during the pandemic. On 4
September, the federal government passed the Transgender Work Quota Law
(*Cupo Laboral Travesti Trans*), which mandates that at least 1 per cent of
the workforce of federal public administration must be made up of
transgender people.

A recent law <https://www.ilga-lac.org/coronapapers.pdf> in Brazil shows
the absolute callousness of the state towards the poor, working class,
people of colour, the LGBTQIA+ community, and other marginalised groups by
allowing cremation without a death certificate, giving a carte blanche for
the state to burn and disappear unclaimed bodies. Even with the lack of
data, we can imagine that transgender people who have been kicked out of
their homes, disowned by their families, excluded from the job market,
forced to work in precarious sectors — such as sex work — amidst the
pandemic or to starve, are among these bodies. As Brazil becomes a global
epicentre of COVID-19 infections and deaths, some have charged the state,
under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro, with genocide

This section barely scratches the surface of the impacts of COVID-19 on the
LGBTQIA+ community, much of which remains invisible and ignored. In the
face of these issues, activists, grassroots community groups, and
non-governmental organisations are calling on the government to
decriminalise sex work, provide relief and food aid, provide emergency
housing to unhoused transgender and queer people, and to support
non-national and undocumented migrant communities in their efforts to
access essential services for their survival. Whether their calls will be
heeded remains to be seen.
* II. **Care Work and CoronaShock*

Care work is work. It is work that provides the material and psychological
conditions to serve our basic needs and our human development as a society.
It encompasses the continuous tasks carried out to maintain and care for
the environment, the body, the being, and everything that is necessary to
intertwine a complex network to support life and its reproduction. Among
these tasks are caring for children, the elderly, and people with mental or
physical illnesses/disabilities alongside household chores such as cooking,
washing, and cleaning. While this work is essential for the reproduction of
the labour force — a fundamental commodity for capital — it is usually
underpaid or even unpaid, and almost always unacknowledged.

A recent Oxfam report
(2020) shows that women are responsible for 75 per cent of the unpaid care
work carried out across the world. That is more than 12.5 billion hours
that women and girls around the planet spend doing this kind of work every
year. According to the report, this is the equivalent of approximately
US$10.8 trillion of unpaid care work per year that subsidises the global
economy — three times the size of the global tech industry.

In rural communities and low-income countries, women dedicate up to 14 hours
to unpaid care work every day — five times more than men. In South Africa,
on average, women do three times more care work at home than men. In
Brazil, 90 per cent of the care work is done in the household, 85 percent
of which is carried out by women. In 2019, women dedicated on average 21.4
per week to care work, while men dedicated only 11 hours per week. Women
who work outside the home dedicated on average 8.2 more hours per week to
household chores than men who work outside the home.

The scale of care and housework has only increased during the pandemic. As
quarantine and physical distancing measures are enforced, the necessity of
care work has become increasingly visible as people are spending more time
at home, caring not only for their house, but also for themselves, their
families, loved ones, neighbours, and even their community. Following the
recommended guidelines for cleaning in order to fight COVID-19 takes an
extra effort: constantly cleaning and wiping down objects and surfaces and
washing clothes upon coming home, caring for and becoming substitute
teachers for children who are not going to school, caring for more people
as they fall sick and stay at home (even when they are healthy), cooking
most meals, tidying up as the house becomes more messy, and having
restricted or no access to leisure and communal spaces such as churches,
parks, bars, public squares, and businesses. All of this care work has
increased exponentially, and the extra burden continues to fall on women.

A recent survey <http://mulheresnapandemia.sof.org.br/> carried out by *Gênero
e Número* and *Sempreviva Organização Feminista*

on the life and work of women in Brazil during the pandemic estimates that
50 per cent of Brazilian women have had to take on the responsibility of
caring for someone since the outbreak; 72 per cent of these women say that
this caregiving takes the form of intensive care and close monitoring, as
is often the case with children, older adults, and people with severe
disabilities or illnesses. Moreover, 40 per cent of women say that the
pandemic, lockdown, and stay-at-home measures have put their own and their
households’ livelihoods at risk; this is especially the case for black
women, 55 per cent of whom reported that their and their households’
livelihoods are at risk. Meanwhile, 41 per cent of the women who have
continued to work and get paid say that they are working longer hours
without additional compensation during the quarantine.

Even women who are able to work from home face daunting challenges as their
remote work and housework coalesce into a seemingly endless chain of
overlapping tasks. The time to tidy up, clean, wash, and cook adds onto
their other demands: mothers manage their children’s education at home, and
the daughters of ill and/or elderly parents become their primary
caregivers, taking on the roles that used to be shared with childcare
centres, schools, and other institutions as the separation between home and
work vanishes. Work that requires high focus, for example, does not go well
with being constantly disturbed at home. After shelter-in-place measures
were implemented in several parts of the world, editorial teams of
scientific publications reported
<http://dados.iesp.uerj.br/pandemia-reduz-submissoes-de-mulheres/> a sharp
drop in paper submissions by women academics on a global level, while
papers submitted by male academics increased by nearly 50 per cent.

Care work at home is not only continuous but it also requires other
considerations. Caregivers have to consider the activities of the other
people around them — not only those they care for, but also the noises, the
distractions, and the demand for attention. The mental load of love and
emotional care is also among the roles assigned to women in private life.
Women continue to shoulder the same tasks and emotional labour they did
before the pandemic — only now this work has become even more gruelling.

Home is not just a space of private relationships, but also of the
production and reproduction of social behaviours, rules, and values, as
well as of hierarchies and the sexual division of labour. When these rules
mean that the care work done at home should be a woman’s job, this
jeopardises their paid work, their economic autonomy, and their chances at
professional improvement when compared to men.

It is no coincidence that, globally, women make up the largest share of the
informal sector, as they have to bear the additional responsibility of
unpaid care and housework. According to an Oxfam report
around the world, approximately 42 per cent of women are unable to find a
job because all of their time is dedicated to care and housework, while
only 6 per cent of men face the same issue.

Additionally, the idea that women’s social role is historically related to
care work has resulted in a kind of professional qualification in which
working and lower-middle class women are channelled, as the Brazilian
sociologist Heleieth Saffioti wrote in *Women in Class Society*
<https://archive.org/details/womeninclasssoci0000saff_s3r8>, first
published in 1967, ‘into second-rate, poorly paid jobs with no prospects
for advancement’ that give them low prestige and little social
acknowledgment (Saffioti, 1978, p. 64). Saffioti concludes that ‘Since a
woman’s occupation is of secondary importance in her life, she has neither
the motivation nor the time to concentrate effectively on improving her
bargaining status on the labour market through union activities’ (Saffioti,
1978, p. 66).

In Brazil, the IBGE estimates
that, between children and the elderly, there will be nearly 77 million
dependents who will need care by 2050 (just over one-third of the country’s
population). Society as a whole should be concerned about who will shoulder
this responsibility, considering that the course of history could maintain
women in that position. This same scenario is unfolding around the world.

Immediate solutions to the crisis are not difficult to find. As Oxfam points
if the world’s richest 1 per cent paid an additional 0.5 per cent tax on
their wealth for the next 10 years, that money could create 117 million
jobs in education, health, and elder care. But — given the realities of
class domination — there is no real chance of this happening in the
foreseeable future. Instead, throughout the pandemic, capitalist states
have granted astounding financial aid to big banks and
corporations. Governments that have discussed incorporating a wealth tax,
such as Argentina and Chile, have been met with strong resistance by the
most powerful elite, which has so far prevented such a tax from being

>From this we begin to understand what feminists like Alexandra Kollontai
almost a century ago: ‘Capitalism has placed a crushing burden on woman’s
shoulders: it has made her a wage-worker without having reduced her cares
as housekeeper or mother.’
*‘Women’s Work’ as a Social Construct*

Despite efforts to convince us otherwise, the fact that women take on these
responsibilities is not ‘natural’. The situation of women in class society
is the result of the imposition of two different sets of values of a
natural and social order. The natural order is based on biological factors,
whereby (in order to control their labour) society assigns care work to
women based on their proximity to motherhood, which arises from their
ability to experience pregnancy and breastfeeding. But, as Saffioti stated
in *Women in Class Society*
<https://archive.org/details/womeninclasssoci0000saff_s3r8>*, *‘Indeed,
since the survival of society is contingent on the birth and rearing of new
generations, it should bear at least part of the cost of motherhood, or
find satisfactory solutions to the occupational problems that maternity
creates for women’ (Saffioti 1978, p. 59).

In the 1970s, a global feminist social movement emerged along these lines
promoting the Wages for Housework campaign, which also advocated for the
right to equal pay for equal work and parental leave. Created in Europe, it
spread across the United States, Italy, England, and other countries in
Europe and in the Global South, spearheaded by Selma James, Silvia
Federici, Leopoldina Fortunati, and others. The campaign also condemned the
sexual division of labour and the process of assigning more importance and
a certain hierarchy to different tasks, which devalues reproductive care
work. Despite the fact that it is key for the production and reproduction
of human life, reproductive work has long been seen as unproductive and has
been devalued and unrecognised; as a result, it has also been excluded from
remuneration. In a society in which money is the medium of all
interactions, women’s access to certain goods and services vastly decreases
and their power is systematically undermined. As long as their place is in
domestic work, which often remains unpaid, women will be economically
subordinated to men.

Echoing Friedrich Engels’ analysis in *The Origin of the Family, Private
Property, and the State, *Angela Davis expanded on this point, writing
in *Women, Race and Class* that this hierarchisation of labour came
alongside the development of capitalism and private property:

In advanced capitalist societies … the service-oriented domestic labour of
housewives, who can seldom produce tangible evidence of their work,
diminishes the social status of women in general. When all is said and
done, the housewife, according to bourgeois ideology, is, quite simply, her
husband’s lifelong servant.

The engrained and structural subordination of women, then, is part and
parcel of the capitalist mode of production and the bottomless greed of the
capitalist, who seeks to subsidise his profits and the cost of production
with unpaid reproductive labour — labour that is predominantly carried out
by women.

The sexual division of labour is a social construct within the general
division of labour, in which certain tasks have historically been delegated
differently between men and women. Under capitalism, this division is
indisputably unequal, as certain roles are regarded as primarily masculine
(in the political, religious, and military realms, for example) while
others are set apart as feminine (roles related to reproduction, service
work, and caring for the household and family unit). In order to maintain
control over this unequal organisation of the workforce, the tasks
performed by men are granted more value in terms of prestige and pay.
Therefore, the sexual division of labour is based on two organising
principles. First, the distinction between what constitutes ‘men’s work’
and ‘women’s work’, and, second, the hierarchy that attributes more value
to ‘men’s work’. That structure upholds gender inequality and the
overexploitation and oppression of women through their work and role in

As a result of the sexual division embedded in the social logic of labour,
house and care work are continuously undervalued and rendered invisible.
This has not only proved useful to capitalism, as it allows this work to
remain almost unquestionably unpaid, but it also feeds off of the
psychological effects on women, who view themselves as having a social fate
that is deeply determined by their biological sex, and by what society
allows or demands them to do based on that.

CoronaShock opens an opportunity to spark a global debate about the
essential nature of care work. Care work has long remained invisible to
those who benefit from its status as unpaid labour and who are responsible
for perpetuating this exploitative structure: the bourgeoisie. The
bourgeoisie has always been unwilling to question the sexual division of
labour and to foster a social, collective responsibility for reproductive
work. The bourgeoisie reaps billions of dollars from unpaid reproductive
work every year and absolves the state from taking the responsibility for
care work; as a class, the bourgeoisie moves a political agenda to
privatise services and cut social investments, placing the burden of those
roles on households — and on women.

The women who most acutely feel the impact of this burden are women of
colour, poor women, and immigrant women. They clean, wash, nurture, and
care for everyone and everything, and are responsible for the roles that
allow for the social reproduction of humanity. Underappreciating this work
serves a purpose for capital. The war waged by the 1 per cent against the
99 per cent seems to have no limits — but its invisibility does.
*The 99% versus the 1%*

According to the ILO
<https://www.ilo.org/brasilia/temas/covid-19/lang--pt/index.htm>, most of
the world’s workers — around 93 per cent — live in countries with some
level of economic shutdown and job loss. Countries in the Global South are
experiencing the worst cuts. It is the masses who have to leave their homes
to work and seek — or desperately try to maintain — some source of income
because they do not have savings to weather the quarantine during the
pandemic without the intervention of the state. The failure of the state to
provide basic income or emergency aid across much of the world — with
important exceptions
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/studies-3-coronashock-and-socialism/> in
regions such as Cuba, Venezuela, Kerala (India), and Vietnam — has exposed
the neoliberal system’s concern for profit over humanity’s concern for life.

The richest sectors of society generally have not granted paid leave to
their employees during the pandemic, even when the WHO recommended physical
distancing practices and quarantine. Many workers, such as domestic workers
and service employees, have had to continue to care for the homes, bodies,
health, and well-being of the rich. While workers are forced to put
themselves at risk, it is their employers who are able to stay safe at home
per WHO recommendations.

A number of other factors put the poor and working class at an increased
risk of falling ill and dying: among them, a lack of access to quality
healthcare and a higher probability of pre-existing risk factors due to the
structural attack on poor and working class communities — from asthma
induced by coal plants and pollution kept away from wealthier areas by ‘Not
In My Backyard’ movements to chronic issues caused by precarious working
conditions. It is not a coincidence that the first person to die from
in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was a 63-year-old female domestic
worker. Her employer had recently returned from a trip to Italy and
neglected to tell her about the possibility of being infected. While the
employer self-quarantined, she refused to allow the domestic worker to go
home; the worker continued to work in the employer’s apartment in one of
the country’s most expensive neighbourhoods. The employer had COVID-19 and
infected this worker, who eventually died.

There have been reports of many other cases of domestic workers whose
employers did not grant them leave, even when they had to face long
commutes in public transportation and overcrowded buses and trains between
home and work. There are also cases of people who knew they were infected
and required their domestic workers to continue to work. While employers
clearly perceived the need to keep a clean house and the need for domestic
and care work, the value of those workers’ lives remained invisible to
them. This provides a snapshot of social inequality: some remain steadfast
that their lives are worth more than the lives of the predominantly women
workers who provide services to them, a logic that is supported and
encouraged by capitalist societies.

The COVID-19 crisis has created an opening to give new meaning to both the
value of labour and the value of the lives of the women who care for the
reproduction and maintenance of our society. We must recognise and
remunerate this invisible labour, understanding that all people have the
right to be cared for. This means advancing access to care that is outside
family networks and outside the commodity form; this kind of care must
cease to be the privilege of a few and instead become a human right.

Some countries and regions have pushed forward the creation of federal
systems of care that attempt to respond to these concerns, as is the case
in Uruguay and Argentina. In Argentina, the creation of the Ministry of
Women, Genders and Diversity is a step forward in the discussion about the
organisation of care work. Since the beginning of this year, the Ministry
has been working on a Federal Care Map (*Mapa Federal de Cuidados*) in
order to plan care-related public policies, which seek to reverse the
gender inequality that is hidden in the current social organisation of care.
*III. The Rise of Patriarchal Violence[6] Under CoronaShock*

Before the pandemic, we already faced a global reality in which, on
average, 137 women <https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-46343858> were
killed every day by someone in their family. UN Women estimates
that one in five women between the ages of 15 and 49 around the world has
experienced some type of physical or sexual assault by their partner. It is
not a coincidence that, by the end of the twentieth century, fighting
violence against women became the biggest demand for many women’s movements
across the world. As impossible as it may seem, patriarchal violence has
become significantly worse since the initiation of shelter-in-place
measures. Over the last few years, we have also seen an increase in
transfemicides across the world, propelled forward by a rise of hate speech
and anti-human rights ideology.

While rates of gender-based violence are known to be high, especially in
the Global South, it is challenging to find accurate statistics. However,
we do know that, during times of emergencies and lockdowns, these rates go
up, as has been the case during the current state of shelter-in-place
orders due to COVID-19. Unemployment, overcrowding, remote work, an
overburden of reproductive work, increasing impoverishment, a crisis of
one’s ability to maintain one’s economic livelihood, and drug and alcohol
abuse are some of the elements that exacerbate gender-based violence — even
more so during the pandemic. Women’s groups warn that lockdown conditions
may be used by abusers to control the behaviour of their partners, blocking
their access to security and support.

Feminist activists and political authorities who know this history
anticipated the gendered impacts of physical distancing and quarantine
measures enforced around the world, warning early on that these measures
could hit women particularly hard. Gender-based violence flourishes on the
social isolation of victims. A key aspect that impacts women who face
domestic violence is that they often become deprived of all social and
professional bonds, growing apart from family, friends, and colleagues,
which in turn increases their dependence on their abusers. For this reason,
supporting women who are experiencing gender-based violence must include
the important task of rebuilding a support network that can help them
emotionally so that they can regain economic, emotional, cognitive, and
housing autonomy.

In Brazil — a country where one woman was assaulted
<https://fpabramo.org.br/2011/02/11/violencia-domestica/> every 15 seconds
on average *before* the pandemic — femicide rates (the killing of women
because of their gender) have surged in 2020 compared to previous years.
The state of São Paulo, for example, reported
a 46.2 per cent rise from March 2019 to March 2020, while femicide rates
increased by 300 per cent in the state of Rio Grande do Norte and by 400
per cent in the state of Mato Grosso. Police responses to domestic abuse
calls increased by 44 per cent in the state of São Paulo alone, and the
number of abusers caught red-handed in the state increased by 51 per cent.
These numbers only reflect the cases that are reported to the police — many
other cases go unreported and are not included in these statistics. In
Argentina, approximately one femicide was reported every day in the first
month of shelter-in-place orders, 66
<https://ahoraquesinosven.com.ar/reports/femicidios-agosto-2020>per cent
<https://ahoraquesinosven.com.ar/reports/femicidios-agosto-2020> of which
took place in the victim’s home.

In South Africa, prior to the pandemic, femicide rates were five times
<https://africacheck.org/reports/five-facts-femicide-in-south-africa/> the
global average. However, the country does not produce statistics that
appropriately reflect upon analyses or data of gender-based violence,
supposedly because it is difficult to gather reliable data on the issue.
>From April 2018 to March 2019, the South African police reported
179,683 contact crimes against women (‘in which the victims themselves are
the targets of violence’), such as murder, attempted murder, sexual
offences, bodily harm, and ‘common assault’. Of these, 82,728 were cases of
common assault and 54,142 were assault with the intent to cause grievous
bodily harm. In that year, 2,771 women were murdered; there were 3,445
attempted murders (though the police do not provide data on motives for
these murders); and there were 36,597 recorded cases of sexual offences
against women. This is a broad crime category that includes rape, attempted
rape, sexual assault, and contact sexual offences.

During the first week that South Africa went into lockdown, between 27 and
31 March 2020, the police recorded 2,300 calls about gender-based violence.
In a webinar on 20 April 2020, Sonke Gender Justice, a South African-based
NGO that supports women, reported
that these figures do not reveal the full extent of violence against women
and children, as most women who are abused cannot go out and file reports
in the current situation.

In fact, we have seen a surge in cases of violence against women across the
world since the beginning of the pandemic. This is why the Argentinian
slogan *el femicidio no se toma cuarentena* (‘femicide does not respect the
quarantine’) clearly points out how an already grave reality is becoming
worse. As one solution to this reality, in France
— which experienced a 32 per cent spike in cases of domestic violence in
the first few days of the lockdown — the government started to put victims
of domestic violence in hotel rooms and announced the establishment of
counselling centres to support women who are experiencing domestic abuse.

Women’s movements have been creating new ways to fight these realities. In
Argentina, on 30 March, the second week of quarantine, the local feminist
movement organised a *ruidazo federal* (‘federal noise action’) against
patriarchal violence after a double femicide took place. Faced with the
restriction of movement, community and neighbourhood networks have taken on
a significant role in creating support systems. As a result, governments
have been forced to acknowledge and continue services and networks
dedicated to protecting women, which are essential for caring for and
maintaining human life. During the first phase of the quarantine, Latin
American countries such as Brazil and Argentina pushed policies to tackle
the effects of the lockdown on gender-based violence. The first measures
were focused on developing and improving apps and hotlines to support
victims of gender-based violence. During the first month and a half of the
quarantine in Argentina, the demand for gender-based violence hotlines
increased <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6eCNfo_RLM> throughout various
jurisdictions by 40 per cent on average as compared with the month prior to
the declaration of quarantine. As the quarantine has been extended, public
resources have been strengthened with new strategies of accompaniment,
hotlines, and coordination between the jurisdictions of Nación, the
Province of Buenos Aires, and the capital city, Buenos Aires. During the
second phase of the quarantine, the feminist support to women in situations
of violence was declared essential work in Argentina, allowing support
groups to continue their work to help victims.

In Brazil, initiatives by social movements and organisations have gained
traction, such as the *Mapa do Acolhimento* or ‘shelter map’, a service
that helps women who need psychological or legal counselling to connect
with volunteer psychologists and lawyers who provide online or in-person
services. The World March of Women has held conversations and solidarity
actions across the country, publishing a list of concrete demands for the
state and society to tackle the pandemic and women’s issues (which
contributed to the People’s Feminist Demands at the end of this paper).

However, it is worth noting that women’s and feminist organisations have
been denouncing not only the increase in cases of patriarchal violence
during quarantine, but also the increasing brutality of instances of abuse.
As Rita Segato points out
this happens as neofascist conceptions about female subordination
overshadow more enlightened ideas about women. These views have been
spreading on a large scale under Brazil’s Bolsonaro, India’s Modi, and so
many other countries with conservative right-wing administrations.

Inspired by a neofascist ideology, the rhetoric adopted by heads of
government who vocally promote hatred and encourage misogynistic attitudes
inevitably legitimises perpetrators of violence against women. Violence is
then seen as an ordinary or normal act that authorities will not prevent or
fight; quite the opposite — it is actually encouraged. This contributes
significantly to increasing incidences of violence: fighting and
eliminating people is the rule of barbarism, which is supported by hate
speech, the failure to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, and
the failure to criminalise these attitudes.

[image: Kruttika Susarla (India), Untitled, first published by Smashboard
for the Sexual Violence vs. Capital Punishment series, 2020]

Kruttika Susarla <http://www.kruttika.com/> (India), *Untitled*, first
published by Smashboard for the Sexual Violence vs. Capital Punishment
series, 2020

The deepening of hate speech and sexist ideology is accompanied by an
increase in homophobic and transphobic rhetoric, which has notable
<https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/LGBT/LGBTIpeople_ES.pdf> on the
violation of the LGBTQIA+ population’s rights. During the pandemic, the
transgender community has been subjected
<https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/LGBT/LGBTIpeople_ES.pdf> to
discrimination, harassment, abuse, and persecution by the police and
security forces. In many countries, policies pushed forward by political
authorities have been characterised by the absence of a lack of
inclusiveness towards the transgender community, reinforcing a sexist

In many countries, restrictions on mobility were implemented based on
biological sex, alternating days when men and women were able to leave
their homes, a policy that excludes non-binary and transgender people. The
implementation <https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-52716776> of these
policies has often been left up to the discretion of security forces to
decide if a transgender woman is allowed to go out with other women, or
with men — according to the sex by birth — or stuck in the middle and
forbidden from leaving at all. In the midst of this uncertainty, police and
other security forces have often perpetrated violence against transgender
and non-binary people, and store vendors have denied them service — either
because of flagrant transphobia, or because of a fear of being fined or
punished by authorities for not abiding by state orders.

In some cases, the pandemic has been used to increase harassment and
attacks of LGBTQIA+ organisations and activists, at times forcing
transgender people to hide or deny their identity. As a result of this
reality, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a call
<https://www.oas.org/es/cidh/prensa/comunicados/2020/081.asp> in April for
the states of the Americas to guarantee the rights, equality, and
non-discrimination of LGBTQIA+ people in measures issued to contain the

The social consequences of political attitudes cannot be disregarded or
separated from the increasing rates of patriarchal violence during
quarantine in several countries around the world. Amid this scenario,
whether in Brazil, India, or elsewhere, life becomes impossible. It is not
simply about a pandemic that exacerbates historical and social problems,
but about a society that is deteriorating to the point of triggering its
own inefficiency and decline. It is time to get rid of hierarchies and
miseries inherited from the past and build possible — and necessary —
utopias for the future.
*IV. The People’s Feminist Demands*

CoronaShock is exposing the structural crisis of capitalism, demonstrating
the urgent need to overcome longstanding problems that have become even
more dire in recent times, such as the social, economic, political, and
ideological crises that predate the pandemic.

While the global bourgeoisie is unable to solve basic problems such as
unemployment, hunger, patriarchal violence, and the underappreciation,
precarity, and invisibility of social reproduction work, the movements of
the working class offer their own solutions. Women in political
organisations and social movements around the world have been organising to
present their demands and proposals to overcome all of these crises in the
midst of the global health crisis. With organised working-class women and
women of colour spearheading this change, we know not just that another
world is possible, but that a socialist, feminist, anti-racist world in
which the wellbeing of humankind and of our planet is placed before the
endless accumulation of profit is not only possible, but necessary. Below,
we will introduce a list of urgent demands from feminist organisations from
Brazil to India to South Africa who are fighting to create such a world.

   1. Ensure that the measures being demanded by movements in the face of
   CoronaShock are made available to all people, with special attention to
   those who are the most systematically excluded from such aid: women,
   informal workers, migrants, people of colour, lower castes, and LGBTQIA+
   people. These general demands
   <https://www.thetricontinental.org/declaration-covid19/>, which have
   been outlined in earlier texts
   <https://www.thetricontinental.org/dossier-29-healthcare/> at more
   length, include:
      1. Cancel the payment of utility bills such as electricity, water,
      internet bills, and rent as long as the pandemic lasts;
guarantee that debt
      will not accrue for non-payment.
      2. Distribute personal hygiene supplies (including masks and hand
      sanitiser) on a massive level.
      3. Freeze prices for essential cleaning supplies, hygiene products
      and healthy food products, such as grains, vegetables, and meat,
      to each country’s cultural specificities.
      4. Ensure the right to paid leave to all working people; guarantee no
      loss of income or rights.
      5. Provide economic assistance — of *at least* a minimum wage — for
      informal workers and self-employed workers.
      6.  Place private healthcare facilities and structures to fight
      COVID-19 under public control; expand the capacity of the
healthcare system
      to serve the people.
      7. Take emergency action to solve the water supply crisis in each
      region and guarantee public access.

   1. Ensure full transparency of information and data about the evolution
   of the pandemic and about every country’s government measures (broken down
   by sex, age, income, sexual orientation, gender identity, and
   place/territory, whenever possible).
   2. Include women from working-class women’s movements in leadership
   positions for decision-making processes regarding responses to and recovery
   from the crises that we face today.
   3. Demand that governments launch campaigns to encourage men and women
   to share household chores equally so that women do not have to shoulder the
   brunt of the burden of housework.
   4. Increase long-term public investment for the public good in areas
   such as social protection, pensions, universal public healthcare, free
   public childcare, and other actions that affect women directly.
   5. Aid and financial stimulus packages implemented by governments must
   include social protection measures that address women’s special
   circumstances and acknowledge the care economy.
   6. Provide a guaranteed minimum income for women and households that
   carry out the many different types of essential care work (including
   domestic/housework), especially for those who have dependents.
   7. Provide food baskets for families with children where childcare
   centres/schools are closed.
   8. Demand essential health interventions to protect the health of all
   people, with special attention towards marginalised, poor, and transgender
   people, migrants, people of colour, the elderly, and people with
   disabilities. Such services include mental health services, HIV/AIDS
   medications, cancer treatment, etc.
   9. Ensure that marginalised communities — including those without access
   to official documentation, in particular the poor and working-class
   transgender people and migrants — receive aid services; ensure the
   expedient delivery of emergency relief such as a Universal Basic Income,
   food distribution, and other services demanded in this list.
   10. Demand that the government protect LGBTQIA+ and all marginalised
   people from discrimination in the midst of policies aimed at fighting
   COVID-19, such as policies that only allow for men or women to leave their
   home on certain days.
   11. Decriminalise sex work, provide relief and food aid, provide
   emergency housing to unhoused transgender and queer people, and support
   non-national and undocumented migrant communities in their efforts to
   access essential services for their survival.
   12. Guarantee readily available hotlines and other publicly accessible
   communication channels and services for all victims of patriarchal violence
   as essential services.
   13. Demand that governments take on the responsibility for advertising
   these hotline numbers and publicly accessible communication channels
   through automated services, text messages, banners on buses, billboards,
   and displays in public spaces, newspaper ads, etc., so that those in need
   know about the service.
   14. Demand that governments offer counselling facilities for women,
   marginalised people, the poor, LGBTQIA+ people, migrants, people of colour,
   the elderly, and people with disabilities in vulnerable situations and/or
   victims of violence.
   15. Demand that governments offer safe, comfortable alternative shelter
   during the pandemic, such as hotel rooms and vacant buildings, to women
   struggling with domestic violence and provide necessary protection and
   security in these locations; ensure the continuation of these services in
   the long-term to meet the pre-existing need for such services.
   16. Build networks of solidarity and collective support that respect
   physical distancing practices to fight against individualism and violence;
   create women’s rights groups and local information campaigns about
   emergency plans for women and children suffering from domestic violence;
   and create teams to care for children in neighbourhoods with greater social
   17. Mobilise healthcare workers to help the community, support women
   workers in popular economies, and make sure that they are given proper pay
   and protective equipment.


[1] Translator’s note: The *Encuentro Nacional de Mujeres* (‘National
Women’s Gathering’) has met annually since 1986.

[2] Translator’s note: In 1977, *madres* (mothers) and *abuelas*
(grandmothers) of those disappeared by the civic-military dictatorship
began protesting in the Plaza de Mayo (Buenos Aires). From 1976-1983, the
dictatorship disappeared 30,000 people, many of whom had been targeted for
political activity, or simply for being poor. The *madres* and *abuelas*
continue their protests today, demanding — among other things — to know the
whereabouts of their disappeared love ones, many of whom remain missing.

[3] Translator’s note: The *Cambiemos* Party — led by former President
Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) — pushed forward a number of neoliberal reforms
such as funding cuts to the Ministry of Health and Work and attacks on
workers’ rights; deepened the economic crisis in the country; and took on
unprecedented loans
from the International Monetary Fund.

[4] Translator’s note: *Patria Grande* refers both to the idea of a ‘Great
Homeland’ and to a political front, *Frente Patria Grande*, a broad
coalition of grassroots organisations and people’s movements in Argentina.

[5] The term ‘popular economy’ refers to strategies of economic subsistence
that poor workers who are excluded from the formal labour market develop to
guarantee the reproduction of their lives, such as working as street
vendors, collecting recycling and trash, urban farming, etc.

[6] It is important to distinguish *patriarchal violence* from other terms
such as domestic violence, which too often inadvertently ignores power and
male dominance inherent in such violence, as well as the fact that violence
against women is not only exerted in the household. In *Feminism is for
Everybody, *bell hooks writes
that ‘[f]or too long the term domestic violence has been used as a “soft”
term which suggests it emerges in an intimate context that is private and
somehow less threatening, less brutal, than the violence that takes place
outside the home’. Rather, patriarchal violence is a more expanded
definition that is linked to the inherent inequality of the capitalist
system, and which manifests in many forms, including domestic and physical
gender-based violence, but also symbolic and cultural violence. Patriarchal
violence ‘continually reminds the listener that violence in the home is
connected to sexism and sexist thinking, to male domination’, bell hooks
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