top of page



Updated: Apr 24, 2021

Ensuring universal access to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services and rights are key UN Sustainable Development targets. However, the current COVID-19 pandemic, along with epidemics of Ebola and Zika, prove that SRH services can be severely disrupted during these times. This disruption can often cause many negative effects for different groups of people, specifically in disempowering individuals (particularly women and girls) and exposing them to preventable health risks.

Reduction in the availability of these services can increase the number of unintended pregnancies from lack of access to family planning, unsafe abortions and complicated deliveries without access to emergency care. In turn, this can result to thousands of maternal and new-born deaths and health problems across the world (WHO, 2020).

Similarly, this reduction can also affect individuals seeking sexual health care, undeniably leading to higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and diseases. According to the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), in-person services for UK patients seeking STI tests and treatments, HIV testing, medications and HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) have reduced drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic began during March 2020.

STI services are trying to preserve as much capacity as possible so that they can meet patients’ needs by rapidly expanding online and phone services, along with posting out STI and HIV home testing kits for individuals (Aidsmap, 2021). However, the provision of long-acting injectable contraceptives, routine vaccinations and microscopy to confirm STI diagnoses have suffered. For example,

9% of clinics have reported that they have been unable to provide HIV PrEP, while 20% of clinics have reported very limited capacity.

Similarly, out of a survey of 196 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals, 53% reported that they were operating less than 20% of their pre-COVID in-person appointments, while 54% reported more than an 80%t shrink in appointments (Aidsmap, 2021) A study by Thomas-Glover et al (2020) has also found that there has been a disproportionately larger reduction in attendances to sexual health services in those aged under 18 years, particularly in semi-rural areas (Thomson-Glover et al., 2020).

The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought further challenges for individuals experiencing sexual violence/gender-based violence. A study by Endler et al (2020) notes that

there has been a 79% increase in risk of violence across 29 different countries during the span of the pandemic

According to UN women (2021), the COVID-19 pandemic, along with previous infectious disease outbreaks, led to an alarming rise in the incidents of gender-based violence, unsurprising given that SRH resources are diverted elsewhere. Similarly, while stay-at-home orders limit the spread of the virus, it can potentially result in dangerous situations for men and women living with violent partners (UN Women, 2020).

There have been multiple suggestions to explain the reason for this increase in domestic violence and gender-based violence during infectious disease outbreaks. Mittal and Singh (2020) note that during such pandemics, women in informal jobs are more likely to become unemployed, and more economic dependence on their male counterparts. Moreover, they state that the economic strain following a global pandemic can increase substance abuse and alcoholism within different groups of people, with reports of a 55% increase of alcoholic consumption in the USA, which has been proven to increase the risk of abusive behaviours. It has also been reported that women experiencing gender-based violence are more likely to experience other forms of gender violence, along with other health conditions, such as PTSD, depression, chronic pain and sexually transmitted diseases (Mittal and Singh, 2020).

The above information shows that many changes have been occurring in SRH healthcare delivery and health-seeking behaviour in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similarly, further priority should be given to geographical locations where SRH services have faced more challenges in the form of budget cuts and closures, in order to ensure that individuals in these areas can still have access to the appropriate services. It should be anticipated by the governments of countries, charities, NGO’s and other actors that suspended and underfunded SRH services should be restored while restrictions are gradually eased, as time passes. The current number of people affected by the lack of access to SRH services is already incredibly high and letting this carry on into the ongoing future could result in more alarming numbers globally.

Moving forward, individuals should be encouraged to continue using SRH services through remote services, while priority of in-person appointments should be given to those at highest risk of health complications relating to abortions and childbirth, STIs, SRH related cancers, those at risk of domestic/gender-based violence and those who cannot rely on

remote consultations and services. While the COVID-19 pandemic should undeniably be given urgent attention, it is vital for governments and politicians to also continue providing funding and the necessary facilities for SRH services in order to ensure better health outcomes for SRH service users.

Contact the author: @panizniz

Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Identity International.


Aidsmap, 2021. UK sexual health services are being decimated by COVID-19 [WWW Document]. URL (accessed 4.9.21).

BASHH, 2021. Home | British Association for Sexual Health and HIV [WWW Document]. URL (accessed 4.9.21).

Endler, M., Al‐Haidari, T., Benedetto, C., Chowdhury, S., Christilaw, J., Kak, F.E., Galimberti, D., Garcia‐Moreno, C., Gutierrez, M., Ibrahim, S., Kumari, S., McNicholas, C., Flores, D.M., Muganda, J., Ramirez‐Negrin, A., Senanayake, H., Sohail, R., Temmerman, M., Gemzell‐Danielsson, K., 2020. How the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic is impacting sexual and reproductive health and rights and response: Results from a global survey of providers, researchers, and policy-makers.

Acta Obstet. Gynecol. Scand. n/a.

Mittal, S., Singh, T., 2020. Gender-Based Violence During COVID-19 Pandemic: A Mini-Review. Front. Glob. Womens Health 1.

Thomson-Glover, R., Hamlett, H., Weston, D., Ashby, J., 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19) and young people’s sexual health. Sex. Transm. Infect. 96, 473–474.

UN Women, 2020. COVID-19: Emerging gender data and why it matters | UN Women Data Hub [WWW Document]. URL (accessed 4.9.21).

World Health Organization, 2020. Maintaining essential health services: operational guidance for the COVID-19 context interim guidance.

27 views0 comments

Unlike most of the world, the COVID-related lockdowns of 2020 weren't a massive adjustment for the Kashmiri population. Why?

Kashmiris under Indian Administration had been subject to an inhumane internet shutdown and curfews enforced by the Indian military since late 2019.

On August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi abrogated Article 37, which (on paper) gave Kashmir a special status and some degree of legal autonomy as a separate state to India. Naturally, the Kashmiri's worldwide took to the streets, protesting against this injustice which was met with incredible violence and destruction by the Indian forces. Schools were shut, internet was shutdown, social media was censored even more than usual and a strict curfew was enforced in the already extremely militarised region. Kashmir remains to this day, one of the most militarised zones in the world. (1)

The first COVID-19 positive case was detected on 9th March 2020 in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) . As of 28 July 2020, J&K have reported 18,879 positive cases and 333 people have lost their lives so far. In comparison to the Jammu division, Kashmir is the worst hit division with 14,812 positive cases and 309 reported fatalities as compared to Jammu division where only 4,067 cases and 24 reported deaths (2). See below for more details.

On top of this, the huge mental health crisis in Kashmir has been reported since the 90's to no avail but one can only imagine that the extended periods of lockdown this past year have only worsened this- especially for women in the perinatal period (3, 4). In recent studies, more than half (56%) of the elderly population were found to have depression associated with hopelessness and suicidal ideation (5). The difficulties those struggling with their mental health face in getting support that they would like and ultimately, need, has also been explored (6) .

Although the restrictions due to COVID-19 have made sense and are vital in reducing the transmission of the disease, for Kashmiri's, it's just another agenda for the military to use to control them. An insightful investigation by Hamid and Jahangir(3), found that:

"On one hand, such restrictions proved helpful in curbing the spread of COVID-19, however on the other hand it changed the whole scenario of death, dying and mourning practices in Kashmir. "

Online streaming of funerals is a way to overcome this issue, but the use of this method may be limited due to the frequent internet shutdowns in Kashmir. To worsen this matter of death, dying and mourning- three hospitals; Jhelum Valley College (JVC) Bemina Hospital, Chest Disease (CD) Hospital, and the Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial (JLNM) Hospital- have been fully dedicated for COVID-19 patients only, affecting normal patient care greatly. This placed a bigger burden on remaining hospitals to provide all the other general healthcare facilities for the public.

In such conditions, those who were in need of immediate treatment faced difficulties in managing it and in some cases, people were not able to reach hospitals in good time. This issue was further highlighted by the Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) president, who stated that emergency patient care in Kashmir has been badly hit, since the focus currently is mostly on COVID-related cases. It is due to such reasons that people are dying more from other health conditions in Kashmir (7).

The politicisation of the COVID-19 lockdown in Kashmir has meant not much of a difference between the curfew-led lockdown in 2019 and COVID-19 led lockdown in 2020. In both situations, Kashmiris have been powerless against military injustice in the region. In many instances, police brutality and vehicle vandalism of family members of the infected have been reported, emphasising the sheer audacity of military occupation in the region.

Despite this, Hamid and Jahangir (3) remain hopeful towards

"the community members or volunteers who, despite the risks, provide all services to the family members of the deceased persons in such complex situations need to be encouraged and acknowledged. There is also scope for Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), Self Help Groups (SHGs) and Local committees to come forward and provide every possible support to the dying individuals and their families amid this critical situation."


As early as 3rd of January (8) 2021, there were reports of intended roll-outs of the Covishield vaccine (the Indian derivative of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine) to J&K, with vaccine rollouts soon after (9-12). This was followed by worrying reports that “more than 80% of healthcare workers have turned down the vaccine” (13,14) from the president of the Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK) with no apparent investigation as to why this was. Although, there was a report (15) about lack of clarity in the vaccination policy in J&K, suggesting an increasing mistrust of a population already traumatised by Indian authority in the region.

Interestingly, unlike the UK Vaccination policy where healthcare/frontline workers were vaccinated first, followed promptly by the elderly and vulnerable populations- it’s the police, army, paramilitary, other security agencies and officials of Municipalities and revenue departments who were vaccinated in the second phase (16). Most of the above occupations are held by those constantly asserting dominance to the Kashmiri population. Despite this, a month ago- when the third phase targeting the elderly began- a source claimed that 70% of health workers had now been vaccinated. This third phase is targeting 1,500,000 of those above 60 as well as 45-59 year olds with co-morbidities (17).

How the politics of health and vaccination has been unfolding in Kashmir is largely unknown, as many probably fear Indian authorities in criticising too much- but ultimately- when a population has been oppressed for so long by an authority, it is hard for that same population to digest any health protective efforts being taken by that same authority without mistrust, suspicion and ultimately, a rebellious acceptance.

Further resources:

Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Identity International.

  1. Kashmiri: Beyond Conflict: Webinar Series. Identity International: Watch here:

  2. Peer, M. (2020, July 28). Doctor among 12 die in JK: 489 more cases in 24 hrs, tally 18,879. Rising Kashmir.

  3. Shoib S, Yasir Arafat SM. Mental health in Kashmir: conflict to COVID-19. Public Health. 2020 Oct;187:65-66. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2020.07.034. Epub 2020 Sep 11. PMID: 32927290; PMCID: PMC7484691.

  4. Shoib S, Arafat SMY, Ahmad W. Perinatal Mental Health in Kashmir, India During The COVID-19 Pandemic. Matern Child Health J. 2020 Nov;24(11):1365-1366. doi: 10.1007/s10995-020-03004-3. PMID: 32902800; PMCID: PMC7479397.

  5. Hamid W, Jahangir MS. Dying, Death and Mourning amid COVID-19 Pandemic in Kashmir: A Qualitative Study. OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying. August 2020. doi:10.1177/0030222820953708

  6. Shoib S, Islam SMS, Arafat SY, Hakak SA. Depression and suicidal ideation among the geriatric population of Kashmir, India. Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2020 Oct 24:20764020968592. doi: 10.1177/0020764020968592. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33100095.

  7. Kashmir News Trust . (2020, July 28). Timeline [Facebook page].

  8. Wani ZA, Hussain A, Khan AW, Dar MM, Khan A, Rather YH, Shoib S. Are health care systems insensitive to needs of suicidal patients in times of conflict? The Kashmir experience. Ment Illn. 2011 Sep 26;3(1):e4. doi: 10.4081/mi.2011.e4. PMID: 25478096; PMCID: PMC4253352.

  9. Economic Times. COVID-19 vaccine dry run held across Jammu and Kashmir. 2021 Jan 7. Available at:

  10. Wani, Riyaz. “COVID-19 vaccination begins in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.” Down to Earth. 2021 Jan 17. Available at:

  11. Ashiq, Peerzada. “J&K kicks off anti-COVID-19 drive with 4,000 doses”. The Hindu. 2021 Jan 16. Available at:

  12. Ul Haq, Shuja. “First batch of vaccines arrive in Jammu and Kashmir.” India Today. 2021 Jan 13. Available at:

  13. Kashmir News Service. “Kashmir’s 83 percent healthcare workers opt out of COVID-19 vaccine: DAK”. 2021 Feb 12. Available at:

  14. The Kashmiri Walla. “83% healthcare workers in Kashmir refused COVID-19 vaccine, claims doctors’ association”. 2021 Feb 12. Available at:

  15. National Herald India. “ People of J&K worried about govt’s silence on COVID-19 vaccination policy: Prof Saifuddin Soz”. 2021 Jan 25. Available at:

  16. ANI.“ Covid-19 vaccination of cops, other frontline workers begins in Kashmir”. 2021 Feb 4. Available at:

  17. Observer News Service. “Third Phase of Covid-19 Vaccination Begins.” 2021 Mar 1. Available at:

12 views0 comments
“Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hatred, and hatred leads to violence. This is the equation.”

In her book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein has outlined how societies facing a crisis are the perfect conditions for disaster capitalism- a strategy developed by American economist, Milton Friedman, that allows privatized industries to profit from large-scale disasters. Klein contends that while the public is in a state of shock, they are focused on tending to the daily emergencies that ensue the crisis while also placing their trust in those that are in power to steer the course to recovery.

In turn, those in positions of power are provided with the ideal opportunity to push policies that further polarize society and deepen wealth inequalities through exploiting the crises (1,2). A deeper analysis of the strategies utilized in sustaining disaster profiteering reveals that the public discourse surrounding the crises is crucial for its survival, especially, public discourses that exasperate racial discrimination.

Hence, by drawing upon parallels between the war on terror and the fight against COVID, racialized public discourse can be seen as pivotal in sustaining disaster capitalist projects.

At the turn of the 21st century, the American public was met with a disaster- the World Trade Centre was attacked by a series of hijacked planes. The incident claimed the lives of almost 3,000 people and thousands more were injured. As the public was still reeling from the shock, the Bush administration declared the beginning of their war on terror. A war that has been privatized and outsourced in both America and abroad allowing for private industries to profiteer from the ongoing disaster- generating billions through private contracts in the name of defence and security (2).

Pivotal to sustaining the war on terror has been the discourse surrounding it. With terror being an abstract idea, one could shape this faceless enemy in whatever way they pleased (3). As Mervat Hatem has quite aptly noted (4), the Bush administration described the enemy that America was facing as a new form of enemy. An enemy that was not confined by borders but had established an extensive global network. This enemy did not belong to a single nation but rather, consisted of transnational actors with the potential of inflicting harm again on American soil.

The abstract nature of this enemy has allowed for an open battlefield for the war on terror- well, as long as it was Muslim, Arab or even just brown in colour. There were 19 individuals involved in the 9/11 attacks: 15 Saudi Arabians, 2 Emiratis, 1 Lebanese, and 1 Egyptian. Yet, the war continues to take place in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war is also taking place domestically, in the name of homeland security, with detention facilities being filled with Middle Eastern, Arab, and Muslim men (4).

In her article, "It’s not about security, it’s about racism: counter-terror strategies, civilizing processes and the post-race fiction", Tina Patel has outlined how the counter-terror discourse has been instrumental in criminalizing “brown bodies''- a term she uses to describe the socially constructed categorization of a race that is dictated by the socio-political climate. She states that

brown bodies include not only those that may appear to be stereotypically Middle Eastern or of South Asian heritage, but also others, including white converts to Islam (5).

Therefore, this loosely defined categorization has allowed the battlefield for the war on terror to be targeted towards an enemy that can be concocted on an ad hoc basis, whether that be justifying invading a new country or building a new prison facility.

In 2020, a similarity can be seen in the strategy being implemented by disaster capitalists once again.


Pharmaceutical companies have also substantially profiteered from this crisis in a variety of ways.

One such way is the development of vaccine technology. Public funding was allocated to researchers to develop the multiple vaccines we now have available through private pharmaceutical companies. As an article in Scientific America shows (8), millions of dollars in government funds fuelled the research that allowed for the development of the vaccine technology that we now have. Yet, alongside the obvious benefits, it is the pharmaceutical companies that reaping huge financial profits.

The same applies to companies based in the UK. The government has invested over £65 million for the research, development, and manufacturing of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine. Although AstraZeneca has said that they will be selling the vaccine without a profit, they have stated that this is only for the duration of the pandemic after which they have the potential to profit millions from. Thus, demonstrating another example of how private industries have been profiteering from a crisis that has claimed over 2 million lives (9).

Under these circumstances, our current public discourse has been branded as the fight against COVID. This time our abstract enemy is a faceless, mutating virus that can once again be shaped into an enemy on an ad hoc basis and although the pandemic is a global crisis, posing as a threat to all populations, this has not prevented the public discourse surrounding the virus from becoming racialized. The rampant Sinophobia that was witnessed from the onset of the outbreak is evidence of this. Statements such as “China virus,” “Yellow Peril,” “Kung Flu,” “Wuhan Virus” (10) or the following:

“The coronavirus pandemic was the product of an imbalance in man’s relationship with the natural world. It originates from bats or pangolins, from the demented belief that if you grind up the scales of a pangolin you will somehow become more potent or whatever it is people believe”

being used by government officials (11), led to an increase in Sinophobic attacks around the world both online and offline (12). Moreover, the narrative of a higher prevalence in “BAME” communities, another loosely defined racial categorization, has again associated the virus with race. A government official has quite confidently stated that

“certain ethnicities... are more susceptible to coronavirus”(13)

in response to being asked why the UK had one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the entire world. As Adam Almeida has stated, this pseudo-scientific statement has no biological premise (13). There is ample literature to suggest that within the UK, the morbidity rates are higher amongst non-White individuals, but this has no biological basis (13). If this were the case, countries of origin would also have disproportionately higher death rates in comparison to the rest of the world. Hence, as a report published by the Runnymede Trust and the Centre of Dynamics of Ethnicity has shown, the death rate inequalities can be primarily attributed to the "entrenched structural and institutional racism and racial discrimination," that is witnessed in the UK (13).

Thus far, it has been evident that disaster capitalist projects are often surrounded by a racialized public discourse, but the question remains: Why race? Is the shock of an attack on the World Trade Centre or a global pandemic enough to keep the public distracted enough to allow for capitalist policies to be implemented?

Potentially, for a while.

A racialized discourse allows for sustaining the shock by creating fear and hatred through racism as we have seen throughout human history. It is a form of orientalism- a persistent Western tradition that constructs an “exoticized” yet “inferior” representation of the “Orient” while presenting the West as the more civilized superior in comparison. In turn, those belonging to the “Orient” are the antithesis to the West and its values and are seen as a constant threat to its well-being (14). By drawing upon this tradition, the racialized discourse is constructed, inducing fear and hatred amongst the public.

Noam Chomsky has quite aptly stated that:

It is the hatred of the vulnerable that sustains the shock in this case as the public is diverted for an undefined period of time. We have seen this in the war on terror as it has evolved into an endless war, allowing for endless profiteering. In the case of COVID-19, the virus became a racialized disease that can mutate and re-emerge, which the fight against will continue. Therefore, the abstract and vague brown-bodied enemy that can never truly be defeated (because it does not actually exist) is able to crop up anywhere at any time and remains a constant threat.

Contact the author: @MisbahSK_

Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Identity International.



1. Klein N. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. 1st edition. London: Penguin; 2008. 576 p.

2. Naomi Klein on Coronavirus and Disaster Capitalism [Internet]. [cited 2021 Apr 3]. Available from:

3. Newman S, Levine MP. War, Politics and Race: Reflections on Violence in the ‘War on Terror’. Theor J Soc Polit Theory. 2006;(110):23–49.

4. Hatem MF. Discourses on the ‘War on Terrorism’ in the U.S. and its Views of the Arab, Muslim, and Gendered ‘Other’. Arab Stud J. 2003;11/12(2/1):77–97.

5. G. Patel T. It’s not about security, it’s about racism: counter-terror strategies, civilizing processes and the post-race fiction. Palgrave Commun. 2017 May 2;3(1):1–8.

6. Comptroller, Auditor General. Investigation into government procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic [Internet]. National Audit Office; 2020 Nov. (Session 2019–2021). Report No.: HC 959. Available from:

7. Comptroller, Auditor General. The supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic [Internet]. National Audit Office; 2020 Nov. (Session 2019–2021). Report No.: HC 961. Available from:

8. Arthur Allen, Kaiser Health News. For Billion-Dollar COVID Vaccines, Basic Government-Funded Science Laid the Groundwork. Scientific American [Internet]. Medicine. 2020 Nov 18 [cited 2021 Apr 3]; Available from:

9. Paul Kelso. COVID-19: The multi-billion pound business of the Oxford vaccine. Sky News [Internet]. 2020 Nov 23 [cited 2021 Apr 3]; Available from:

10. Horton R. Offline: COVID-19 and the dangers of Sinophobia. The Lancet. 2020 Jul 18;396(10245):154.

11. U.K. Risks China Spat With Boris Johnson Attack on ‘Demented’ Medicine. [Internet]. 2021 Jan 11 [cited 2021 Apr 3]; Available from:

12. Li Y, Nicholson HL. When “model minorities” become “yellow peril”—Othering and the racialization of Asian Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic. Sociol Compass. 2021;15(2):e12849

13. Adam Almeida. The government must not use pseudo-science to dismiss Covid’s impact on BME communities. The Runnymede Trust [Internet]. Race Matters. [cited 2021 Apr 3]; Available from:

14. Said EW. Orientalism. London: Routledge & Kegan; 1978. 368 p. (Wolfgang Laade Music of Man Archive).

19 views0 comments
bottom of page