Pitch in with housework, Mexico tells men at home due to pandemic

Friday, 27 March 2020 19:00 GMT

Crystal Ibarra, 23, reaches for her laundry in her backyard, which faces the border fence at the United States-Mexico border outside of Brownsville, Texas, August 5, 2014. Picture taken August 5, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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As billions of people around the world are stuck at home, concern has risen over a potential rise in domestic violence

By Christine Murray

MEXICO CITY, March 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mexico's government is calling on the nation's men to pick up a mop, do some laundry and take on more household responsibilities while they are staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Four female officials spoke out at Mexico's daily COVID-19 briefing on Thursday to remind people that women do almost three times more housework and family care than do men.

That inequity could be remedied while families are being asked by the government to practice social distancing by staying at home, they said.

Mexico has 585 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and more than 2,000 suspicious cases are being analyzed. Schools are closed and large public events are canceled.

Worldwide, confirmed cases rose above 550,000 and deaths 25,000, the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center reported on Friday.

"We have to redistribute this work equally between men and women.... Men will have to do more, and women should have to do less," said Nadine Gasman, head of the National Women's Institute INMUJERES, a government body working for gender equality.

Women disproportionately handle activities like washing clothes and dishes, cleaning the house and looking after children and older people, and men should do more, Gasman said.

She was one of the four women speaking at the briefing - a rare sight in a country where all-male panels are far more common.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, who leads the daily briefings, and a male colleague sat behind the four women.

"I'll stay here in the back to let the women run the session," he said.

Officials also encouraged women subject to domestic abuse to call authorities for help.

"Women who suffer violence may continue suffer it," Gasman said. "Social distancing is not a reason to accept violence."

Studies show men who look after their children and do domestic work are less violent, she also said.

As countries around the world fight to halt the spread of coronavirus by asking people to stay home and isolate themselves, concern has risen over a potential surge in domestic violence with families stuck at home.

Some groups have called for creative measures such as turning hotels and holiday lets into women's refuges.

In Mexico, femicide has been a growing concern overall.

The rate of femicide, a crime described under Mexican law as murder of a woman for reasons of gender, rose almost 10% in 2019 and more than 75% of women say they feel unsafe in their city, according to a survey by statistics body INEGI.

Across Latin America women have taken to the streets over the past year demanding governments take action against soaring femicide rates and other gender-based violence.

Earlier this month, millions of women in Mexico stayed at home from offices, factories and schools in a national 'day without us' to protest discrimination and violence against women .

(Reporting by Christine Murray, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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