Fear, discrimination, and healthcare access during the COVID-19 pandemic: Exploring women domestic workers’ lives in India

Bhat, Lekha D., Kandaswamy, Surabhi orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6336-1722, Sumalatha, B.S., Mohan, Gayathree and Tatsi, Ourania Vamvaka (2022) Fear, discrimination, and healthcare access during the COVID-19 pandemic: Exploring women domestic workers’ lives in India. Agenda, 35 (4). pp. 140-150. ISSN 1013-0950

[thumbnail of AAM]
PDF (AAM) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/10130950.2021.2046392


This article explores the fear, stigma, discrimination, work-life balance, household dynamics, and healthcare access of women domestic workers in India during the COVID-19 pandemic. The women domestic workers interviewed mainly belonged to the lower strata of society, where survival is mainly based on day-to-day earnings. The pandemic has substantially changed the workplace environment, and the vulnerability of women has increased tremendously. Women report sleeplessness, a trust deficit, and experiences of loss of self-dignity. Economic insecurity is widely reported, which in turn affects social life and quality of life. It is evident that instances of fear and anxiety are due to a lack of safety at the workplace and drastically reduced income levels. Instances of loss of basic dignity at the workplace or while travelling to the workplace are also widely shared. Women reported a significant increase in the workload at home, decreased intake of food, and reduced healthcare seeking. Lack of rest and self-care is the first change that women reported, because the long time spent on home and work responsibilities are taken for granted by other members of the family. Women also reported increased incidences of domestic violence and sexual abuse. This is mainly because, in this patriarchal society, men are ventilating their frustration about joblessness, wage reduction, and alcohol non-availability due to the pandemic on women at home. Psychological stress, confusion, and restlessness were commonly observed during our conversations. The majority of women either discontinued or stopped their ongoing treatment both for reproductive health and chronic diseases during the pandemic, due to non-affordability and lack of other support. This article argues that women domestic workers endured fear, stigma, loss of dignity, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and compromised self-care during the pandemic, and the male-dominated society is normalising such practices.

Repository Staff Only: item control page