Beyond sex and gender analysis: An intersectional view of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and response

AUTHORS    Dr. Olena Hankivsky and Dr. Anuj Kapilashrami

LOCATION   International


This policy brief emphasizes that the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic are not the same for everyone. The outbreak has prompted calls to better understand its differential impacts. While a sex-and-gender focus has been important in examining the impacts, others have noted that gender must be recognized as an intersecting component of wider structural inequalities, including migration/refugee status.

How does this research apply to my work?

Although this report does not provide information directly related to addressing the mental health of immigrants and refugees, as service providers it is important be aware of the nuanced understandings of how intersecting factors and processes of power across geopolitical contexts shape risks, needs, experiences and capabilities of differently situated women and men.

What should I take away from this research?

  • An analysis of COVID-19 reduced to sex and gender differences can exclude or not adequately account for critical factors such as age, geography, disability, race/ethnicity and Indigeneity, migration/refugee status, class, and other structural conditions, including precarious housing, employment, and political and environmental stressors.
  • Distribution of COVID-19 risks – including, age/health status, disability, sex/gender, socioeconomic status, indigeneity, migration status, geographic location, and race/ethnicity - illustrates the importance of an intersectional approach.
  • There are disparate impacts and how they affect specific populations need to be considered.

What’s the next step?

The scale of the COVID-19 outbreak – with 1/3 of the world’s population under some form of lockdown – urgently requires an intersectionality informed approach to public health policy and decision making. This will need to include the collection of diverse data, an intersectionality analysis, cross-sectoral policy responses and commitment to leadership diversity.

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