The following open letter is part of a larger advocacy effort toward a feminist response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, coordinated by The Feminist Alliance for Rights.
The Prime Minister of India
April 8, 2020.
Re: Urgent adoption of a policy to ensure a feminist response to the COVID-19 pandemic
Dear Prime Minister Modi,
We would like to share with you a collective statement for the adoption of a feminist COVID-19 policy, coordinated by the Feminist Alliance for Rights (FAR), and endorsed by The Gender Security Project along with nearly 1160 individuals and women’s networks and organizations globally. The statement was initiated by women from the Global South and marginalized communities in the Global North. It recognizes key areas of focus that are central to the well-being of all with regards to food security, health care, education, social inequality, water and sanitation, economic inequality, violence against women, access to information, and abuse of power, and includes recommendations for Member States, to address the extraordinary challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in a manner that is consistent with human rights standards and principles.
1. In the context of the current public health crisis, States must immediately adopt, in cooperation with civil society, a comprehensive policy that ensures people’s human rights, including the right to have access to support and protection systems, information and resources.
2. States must recognize and prioritize the needs of people in vulnerable situations including women, children, elderly, people with disabilities, people with compromised health, people living in rural communities, homeless people, institutionalized people, refugees, migrants, indigenous peoples, stateless people as well as people in war zones.
3. The COVID-19 pandemic has a disproportionate harmful impact on women’s and girls’ ability to enjoy their human rights due to their sex, gender, and sexual orientation, exacerbating their vulnerabilities or magnifying existing inequality. Women are on the front lines of the health sector where they form 70% of the workforce and, at home, the disproportionate burden of care work they shoulder will increase. Rates and the severity of domestic violence, including intimate partner violence, against women and children will likely surge as tensions rise during this crisis period.
4. In their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond the current crisis, Member States must implement a feminist, human rights-based and intersectional approach which places the most marginalized people at the center and takes into account the cumulative way in which multiple factors and forms of discrimination have either marginalized or excluded people, thereby making them more vulnerable to harmful outcomes as a result of the pandemic itself of the measures that are introduced to contain it.
In this context, we kindly request the Government of India to urgently adopt a comprehensive policy and to take the necessary measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in accordance with human rights standards and international commitments, and uphold the principles of equality and non-discrimination.
We look forward to following up with you in the coming weeks.
The Gender Security Project