On the one hand, the patriarchal system assigns the care of the most vulnerable, the elders, and the children, to women, increasing the burden of domestic work. On the other hand, many women – nurses, doctors, janitors, cashiers, workers, pharmacists – have to be at the frontline in this emergency, working in hazardous conditions for their health, for long hours, and often for miserable wages.
Domestic and care work, as well as many precarious or informal jobs, are often carried out by migrant, Afro-descendant, Black, or indigenous women who are now not only dismissed, with no possibility of supporting themselves or paying medical expenses, but also find themselves without residence permits, more vulnerable to racist attacks, and more exposed to the health and economic consequences of infection, as they often live in the most populated and poorest areas.
Thus, on the one hand, our lives are sacrificed to sustain this crisis, while on the other hand, bodies that are not considered productive, as well as those of people with disabilities, are totally invisible, precarious and unprotected.
In indigenous communities and native peoples’ communities, women are intensifying their care and life-support work while, at the same time, they continue to produce the food needed to support the cities. They are emphasizing their central role in mobilizing and producing food and developing mutual support measures to deal with the pandemic.
Some countries open their borders to migrants only when their work is considered necessary to ensure food stability in times of pandemic, while other countries close their borders not only to migrants, but also to their inhabitants, leaving them in refugee camps and violating their right to health and to return to their territory.
On the multiple fronts of war and territories in rebellion, such as what is happening to Kurdish and Palestinian people, the patriarchal and imperialist invasion of territories is ongoing. This complicates the possibilities of receiving adequate treatment, thus intensifying the attack on the revolution of Kurdish women and the struggle of all women who want to be free from colonial and patriarchal domination.
While today, more than ever, health and life are becoming established as collective and politically central matters, years of neoliberal policies have imposed a burden of individual responsibility, with different degrees of intensity: in several countries, cuts have been made to the health and social protection system, leaving thousands of people without medications and forcing them to confront the absence of state support by establishing networks of solidarity and mutual care; in other countries, by contrast, a public health and social protection system never existed and the situation got worse with the widespread implementation of economic austerity and adjustment plans. Moreover, in many cases the crisis is being used to further restrict sexual and reproductive rights of women and LGBTI* people.
From another perspective, neoliberalism is showing its most brutal face in the militarization and over-policing of urban and rural environments and of indigenous territories carried out by armed forces who are taking advantage of the emergency and of the already existing democratic fragility of governments to silence all traces of revolt, to criminalize the solidarity networks that are emerging and to ensure the chain of command of the state, which is becoming more and more authoritarian and repressive.
And, finally, it has become even more evident that we cannot accept the environmental and ecological devastation that subordinates all living species and natural resources to the needs of capital. This favors the same imbalances that have allowed the spread of the coronavirus. Widespread extraction of natural resources, industrial and large-scale production of food, single-crop farming and pollution are condemning millions of people to a new, unprecedented food crisis.