There is a growing awareness of the importance of mental health in addition to physical health for a person’s wellbeing. A poll by Care International found that Coronavirus has sparked a mental health crisis with women being three times more likely to be affected. In patriarchal cultures, like those found in most of Latin America, women feel the burden of lockdown on their lives and responsibilities even more acutely.
The Head of Medical Staff for Mental Wellbeing at a clinic in Peru told us, “Many women have left work because their children have been studying remotely, and they have no one to leave them with.”
This loss of income and additional responsibility at home has caused increased levels of anxiety and stress that has led to a range of other mental and physical health difficulties.
“Many low-income women have no real possibilities of working until their children return to school.”
Board director at a Chilean educational institution.
Latin America’s 16.7 million female domestic workers have faced a terrible dilemma during periods of lockdown. Should they stay to look after their own family and potentially lose their only source of income, or move in with their employers and not see their family?
A Board director at a Chilean educational institution said, “Many low-income women have no real possibilities of working until their children return to school but at the same time mothers of school-age children are fearful of going back to school with the possibility of contagion.” Another concerning trend, primarily affecting women, is the increase in domestic violence. A psychologist in Chile told us that, “Even in Providencia (an upmarket district of Santiago) complaints of domestic violence have increased 500 per cent and in less wealthy neighbourhoods the situation is even worse.”
“Complaints of domestic violence have increased 500 per cent.”
A psychologist in Chile.
The World Bank has stated that, “In many Latin American countries there has been a significant increase – a doubling in some cases – in reports of domestic violence and murders of women and girls since stay-at-home orders were set up.” This increase in domestic violence has occurred at a time when the authorities are less able to respond with victim support and mediation services due to lockdown restrictions.
Much of the world is making progress towards closing the gender inequality gap but women in Latin America are suffering more than ever. This must change.