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Queen Mary research calls for an intersectional view of the coronavirus pandemic

Queen Mary University of London's Global Policy Institute has published joint research with the University of Melbourne which argues that sex and gender analysis alone will not paint a full picture of the impact of coronavirus, and that an intersectional view of the outbreak considering different social categorisations is needed.

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A graphic depicting a group of diverse people wearing face masks
A graphic depicting a group of diverse people wearing face masks

UN General Secretary António Gutteres recently appealed for consideration of women’s needs in combating COVID-19, and others have criticised the gender-neutral approach to pandemics, including the lack of gender expertise in pandemic planning, outbreak response and post-pandemic recovery.

However, Dr Anuj Kapilashrami, Senior Lecturer in Global Health Policy at Queen Mary University of London, and Dr Olena Hankivsky from the University of Melbourne, argue that while gender is a critical domain of investigation an analysis of the coronavirus pandemic which focuses exclusively on sex and gender differences won’t provide the full picture of the impact of COVID-19. An intersectional approach is necessary to provide enough information on intersecting disadvantages to fully address it.

Why is a focus on sex-based differences not enough?

Intersectionality promotes an understanding of human beings as shaped by the interaction of different social categorisations, such as ethnicity, gender, class or sexuality, and the authors suggest that a more sophisticated analysis which captures the experiences of diverse groups of people is required to avoid the risk of homogenizing otherwise diverse experiences.

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 and class.

Disparate impacts

The research identified a wide range of structural conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic including overcrowding and precarious housing making self-isolation more difficult, unemployment, increased care work – which predominantly falls on the shoulders of women – and critical services and needs being put at risk as governments prioritise their response to coronavirus.

Recommended actions

The researchers set out a number of possible actions to implement an intersectionality informed approach to public health policy and decision making, including moving beyond sex disaggregated data and using a gender perspective while integrating other social factors with biological explanations.

They recommend collecting diverse data, contextualising data in the context of a person’s social location within their household, community and the wider health system and undertaking an intersectional analysis of national and global responses.

They also recommend broadening bailout and stimulus packages to prioritise those most at risk, making policy responses cross-sectoral and committing to leadership diversity: pointing out that, to date, policy making has been dominated by white, Christian, cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied wealthy men.

Find out more

For more information read the policy brief on the Queen Mary Global Policy Institute website:

Beyond sex and gender analysis: an intersectional view of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and response [PDF 613KB] 

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