ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Great Indian Kitchen

A Reminder of the Subtle Manifestations of the Shadow Pandemic

The Great Indian Kitchen

The Great Indian Kitchen makes a subtle but important connection between housework, domestic violence, and the denial of women’s autonomy.

 

As India writhed through the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with its devastating death toll, the breakdown of health services, oxygen politics, and vaccine allocation dominated national conversation. Yet as medical experts underlined the necessity of social distancing and governments enforced lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus, a new “shadow pandemic” of domestic violence arose. Almost as soon as the pandemic struck in 2020, countries around the world reported an increase in violence against women and girls. In India, the National Commission for Women received 5,297 complaints of domestic violence in 2020—the highest in five years. With several states imposing partial and total lockdowns in 2021, a similar trend is likely to be reported. But the problem of domestic violence is not new. The National Family Health Survey-4, conducted five years earlier found that about one-third of the married women in India experience physical, sexual, and/or emotional violence from spouses.

Lockdowns also increase women’s domestic work across social classes but more noticeably in middle class and elite homes, which otherwise employ maids, nannies, and cooks. Even after lockdowns are lifted, many families continue to observe social distancing norms, resulting in the replacement of paid domestic work with the unpaid work of wives, mothers, and daughters-in-law. Again, the disproportionate burden of domestic work predates the pandemic: Indian women have been found to spend about five to six hours a day on housework compared to men’s one and half hours in the National Sample Survey Office’s 2019 time use survey.

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Updated On : 26th Oct, 2021

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