American University of Beirut

The Gendered Dimension of COVID-19 in Lebanon

​Policy Brie​f

Abir Chebaro, Gender Expert

Civil Society Actors and Policy Making Program, May 2020

While holding the XX chromosomes makes your immunity stronger and gives you a higher life expectancy as statistics have shown, being a female exposes you to higher risks of cultural, social, and economic discrimination that sideline you and your wellbeing in the response of many countries to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus, has rapidly spread globally. The World Health Organization labeled COVID-19 a pandemic (WHO, 2020). Thousands of people are struggling for their lives in hospitals and millions are fighting the spread of the virus by adhering to the WHO directives, namely lock down, self-isolation, and overseeing proper hygiene, measures adopted by most governments of infected countries. The Lebanese cabinet took the decision to instate a “health emergency”, and on March 15, 2020 the government proclaimed a state of general mobilization that called for the closure of public administrations and institutions, municipalities, autonomous utilities, universities, public and private schools as well as nurseries. The President of the Republic invited everyone to continue their work from home, in the manner that they deem appropriate, so that online education is pursued for students, and work for workers, and so that institutions remain as active as possible (The Presidency of the Council of Ministers, 2020).

“The emergency plan focuses on the immediate healthcare problems, while not considering the status of consistent and structural gendered inequalities that underpin the prevailing unhealthy conditions”

Although the various health sectors in Lebanon have been mobilized under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister and the Ministerial Committee for Coronavirus Prevention (Dakroub, 2020), the emergency plan focuses on the ‘immediate’ health-care problems, while not considering the status of consistent and structural gendered inequalities that underpin the prevailing unhealthy conditions.

Not only is this Action Plan Gender Blind, as most of the global response plans which didn’t prioritize the gender component, it also fails to include a response to the economic and social repercussions of the crisis, especially for the most vulnerable among which are women who are disproportionately affected in crisis and emergencies, and who will undoubtedly bear a disproportionate burden in terms of the health risks posed by the virus (GHAWG & UN Women, 2020). In a policy brief, ESCWA, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (2020), insisted that: “For this response to be effective, it must take into consideration the social prejudices and gender norms that discriminate against women in the public and private spheres in the Arab region”. A gendered understanding of COVID19 highlights the multiple and inter-related levels of inequality that shape vulnerability to the infection and the personal, social, and economic impact of the crisis. As a result, gender should be viewed as a cross-cutting issue that has implications on all aspects of the pandemic.

​Read the full policy brief:​

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