Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Lockdown not the same for the vulnerable in Pakistan

  • 01 May 2020
This article discusses domestic and family violence. The world has stopped. People around the globe are sitting tight at home to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus. Pakistan, thankfully, is no different. The sixth most populous country is trying to manage the crisis with the little resources it has.   

Yet, many women and children in Pakistan might not be safe within their own houses. They are being forced to be locked in with their abusers, with little to no hope of intervention from authorities or the outside world, as everyone is engaged in fighting with the virus. 

In Pakistan only 24 per cent of the total population of women is in the workforce, while all others assume numerous unpaid roles, primarily as the caretaker of the house and family. Not to forget that even women in the workforce, skilled or otherwise, have to resume their household duties as soon as they are at home. 

An average Pakistani woman’s day would be full of chores to please others. It’s childcare responsibilities, making appointments, cooking and cleaning for her children and partner. She is lucky to get an hour or two for herself. Even if she has help, she still is supervising. Plus, tending to the needs of her in-laws, if she lives with them. Be it their medicines, doctors’ appointments, food or clothes.  

The routine remains the same even if she works from home or works at an office. She will be expected to carry out her duties perfectly, with or without help.

Pakistani women spend 11 hours on unpaid care and domestic work for every one hour a man spends doing the same, according to data published in the UN Women’s flagship ‘Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020’ report.

'What needs to be considered for these women is a better world in a post–COVID-19. Women need to be able to speak freely, get legal and medical aid easily and without the fear of being bumped back into an unwanted abusive relationship.'

Not only is the unpaid labor by women hardly acknowledged, but it is also rare for husbands to help in household chores.

Apart from their duties, women also have to deal with the ‘family politics’ — where the women are blamed for things wrong in the house, martial issues, not being perfect enough — which can include physical and mental abuse. Hence, women face a double threat: a deadly virus outside and an abuser at home.

‘Imagine living