By Rebecca Irons
Abstract: Gender and public markets have long been intertwined in Peru, and it follows that so too has the Covid-19 pandemic become intimately interwoven with gender and the marketplace. The vast majority of market-sellers are women, and they are often limited to what they can sell: vegetables, fruits, and grains: the ‘essentials’ (Babb,1991). Scholarship on gender in the Andes has highlighted the fundamental role that market-selling has played in the economic independence and rural-to- urban migration of women, and this kind of work has long been intimately related to women’s positions of power and agency within a deeply patriarchal society (Weismantel,2014). However, with the arrival of Covid-19 in Peru, and the global lean towards restricting movement for the purchase of ‘essential’ items only, the woman-centred space of the market place has taken on a new meaning. Whereas this may once have been seen as a place of female empowerment, the market is now a dangerous viral vector- in May, 79% of Lima market sellers tested positive for Coronavirus (Guardian,2020).
Further still, Peru’s quarantine policy drove women to the markets en-masse, whilst men sheltered safely at home. Peru was one of only three countries to introduce a gender- segregated quarantine, with men and women allowed out on alternate days. It failed and was withdrawn early due to its spectacular, although unsurprising, failure. Peru discovered, perhaps too late, that women did all the food shopping and consequently overwhelmed the virus-hub markets, causing a total inability to social distance on women’s days. Across the world, women engage in unpaid, devalued labour. However this lecture will explore the Peruvian case to discuss how women have arguably been forced to extend this to gendered health labour – shouldering the viral burden to protect men who are more susceptible to infection, and being further burdened themselves in the process.
Keywords: gender segregated quarantine, Indigeneity, Intersectionality, Post-colonialism, Feminised burden of care
Rebecca Irons is a Medical Anthropologist from University College London, where she works as a visiting lecturer. Her research explores the intersections of gender, race, citizenship, and health in Peru. – email@example.com