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Author: Ankita Maji

UPES, Dehradun


The global pandemic that fell upon the entire world affected the people in many different ways. Within a few months, the world experienced an economic crunch, shortage of healthcare services, a rise in unemployment etc. People were stuck at home and were to continue their daily activities from within the four walls of their home. During such difficult times, it became really important to protect the vulnerable and marginalised sections of the society, who were deeply affected by the pandemic and the lockdown that followed.

On 8th October 2020, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued guidelines to protect the rights of women in the backdrop of Covid-19. A committee of experts was formed by the NHRC to assess the ‘Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Human Rights and Future Response'. The committee had a very wide representation and comprised of experts from independent domains, representatives belonging to various civil society organisations and representatives from concerned ministries and departments as well. The committee had the task of assessing how the pandemic has affected the rights of the people, especially the lower and the vulnerable strata of the society. After due consideration of the report submitted by the committee, the NHRC came up with guidelines for protecting the human rights of the women during this pandemic. The NHRC has requested the implementation of these advisories by the State, Union Territories and the concerned ministries as well.


The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a legal body established under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 whose aim is to secure and advance the cause of Human Rights in India. It investigates the infringement of basic human rights by any State authority, suggests measures for the proper implementation of Human rights, to support associations within its infrastructure for the furtherance of human rights, and so on. NHRC has, in the previous half-year, given a series of advisories on issues identifying with nutrition and food, mental wellness, children and women, childcare workers, social health activists working in the unorganised sector and so forth.

During such difficult times, NHRC has valued the importance of mental wellness, right to food and health, rights of children, women and workers of informal sectors, conditions of prisons and disabilities as significant features of a human’s basic right to live with dignity. It has provided advisories on similar topics to bring up discussions among individuals and to raise awareness.


This pandemic has been particularly cruel to women. Women are battling the shadow pandemic, who have been the greatest victims of the lockdown as well as the post-lockdown period — be it at their place of work or home. The National Commission for Women (NCW) made quite a several observations during this lockdown period:

A sharp increase in the number of domestic violence cases against women during this lockdown period, as women were confined to their homes with their abusers, also making it difficult to secure any kind of help or justice.

As women are the primary caregivers in their home and to their children, this lockdown has added stress and affected their mental health adversely.

The poor financial condition of female migrant labourers, who are the largest contributors to the unorganised sector of the country. Lack of wages or any form of social security during this period may make it difficult for them to survive this pandemic.

With the hospitals and healthcare services being utilised to treat Covid patients, pregnant mothers and mothers with newborns may find it difficult to avail proper medical services and care.

Working women who are also single parents may find it difficult to juggle work from home and household activities without any kind of help, and also have to deal with the pressure of loss of jobs or reduction in salaries as well.

The safety and hygiene of women frontline workers belonging to the paramedic staff may also be overlooked, given the critical situation.

In this lockdown period, when almost every person is relying on the internet for information, entertainment and work, women have also been easy victims of cyber crimes, which has been on the rise, ever since the lockdown had been imposed.


The committee after its assessment concluded that the pandemic has had a ‘gendered impact’ on the society, whether be it financial or productive resources, or access to healthcare, food and nutrition, or even in terms of economic opportunities and violence. It has provided its recommendations under six different heads:

1. Gender-Based Violence (GBV)

Services provided in support of violence and its survivors are to be termed as ‘Essential Services’.

Ensuring proper implementation of protocols in all the states for hospitals, health centres, shelter homes, quarantine centres, child welfare committees and maintaining the confidentiality of positively tested patients, mainly victims of violence.

Developing an active inter-ministerial response towards GBV and providing the required psychological, medical and legal care for its survivors.

Setting up of a task force for monitoring of support services, taking initiatives for its prevention, maintaining proper data and ensuring its availability in the public domain.

Public communication and display of strict intolerance regarding the same to be circulated.

2. Sexual & Reproductive Health Rights of Women

This can be further classified into two categories:

a. Maternal Health of women:

Strictly following the ‘Guidance for Management of Pregnant Women in covid-19 Pandemic' provided by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).

No discrimination while providing maternal benefits, also ensuring easy access and availability of reproductive services for pregnant migrant labourers.

Continuous supply of blood, medicines and equipment, free and safe ambulance services.

Nutritional support through cooked meal programmes and home ration takeaway for all pregnant and lactating women.

All payments pending under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojna (PMMVY) to be cleared for all the eligible women under this scheme.

b. Safe Abortions and accessibility to Contraception: