In Panama, on March 13, 2020, the Council of Ministers declared a “state of national emergency” under Resolution No. 11. On that day, the executive branch issued a decree ordering, among other things, ” extreme health measures in light of pandemic declaration ”, and ordered regional and local authorities to put in place monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance with health measures.
Since then, the Panamanian government has issued regulations that have had side effects on people’s lives. One of them was Decree 577 of March 24, 2020, which declared total quarantine and delegated the issue of mobility of people to the Plan Protégete Panama. As a result, Resolution 360 was issued with the aim of adopting new measures to restrict the mobility of people based on gender and identification number.
Peru, Colombia and Panama were the only three countries in the world to apply a similar measure. However, both Colombia and Peru had short-term measures. In Panama, the measure lasted almost six months, from March 30 to September 13.
The measure consisted of people circulating according to the last number of their identification, at a fixed time to access essential services for two hours. Women could go out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and men on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. On Sundays, no one was allowed to circulate.
Together, researchers from the London School of Economics – Clare Wenham, Corina Rueda and Daniela Meneses – and the International Center for Political and Social Studies (Cieps) have started research to understand the social impacts of this measure. This was done through a qualitative study in which representatives of civil society groups and officials were interviewed. The study revealed the difficulty of accessing basic resources and discrimination.
ACCESS TO BASIC RESOURCES
Panama’s gender-disaggregated policy and ID card have increased barriers to accessing basic health care resources. Some tertiary health facilities have been designated as Covid-19 hospitals, which means those who need access to other services must travel to more distant medical facilities, although they only have two hours . The consequences were even more profound for people in rural areas, who could live more than three hours from the point of care.
Another example is the unnecessarily long waiting times for the simple removal of minor surgery points, the day of the consultation not corresponding to the start. And while the doctor’s appointment was an exception to going out on presentation of proof, it often depended on access to data on cellphones or on paper, which people could not always have. count.
Access to and delivery of sexual and reproductive health services has also been affected. Some women have reported concerns and difficulty having their period on a Friday night without hygiene products. Likewise, according to reproductive health service providers, they were overwhelmed on days when women could leave due to the long queues that formed, as they were often unable to do their groceries within the two hours allowed. In some cases, accessing a drug can take five hours in three days – almost every six hours allowed per week.
In general, the entire population has been affected by the measure, but certain sectors of society, such as indigenous peoples, migrants, people with disabilities, transgender people, children, adolescents and women, have suffered consequences. more serious. Therefore, the measure worsened the inequalities that existed before the pandemic, despite warnings from national and international organizations.
Children and adolescents, for example, had no set time to leave their homes. This was incompatible with pre-established visiting arrangements between separated parents where children had to move between two houses. And in the case of single parents, they found access to assets even more difficult because they could not access them with their children, so they needed more time to move them to other places of care.
The measure did not take into account pre-existing gender inequalities. According to data from the 2019 Cieps survey, 70.6% of caregivers are women and the two hours were insufficient to perform care tasks. In addition, women in essential jobs said they experienced more verbal harassment on the days assigned to men because there were not many women on the streets, which increased fear and feelings of insecurity.
There is no gender identity law in Panama. In this context, the fact that mobility is governed by biological sex in the identity card has imposed obstacles on the movement of transgender people who have been questioned by police officers, whether they are out on sex day on their own. identity card or because of their gender. .
FUTURE LESSONS AND CHALLENGES
In addition to being a tool in the fight against disease, the policy of gender segregation and identity card has had significant side effects on Panamanian society and can be seen as regressive public and social policy. It exacerbated inequalities and created new barriers to accessing essential services for vulnerable groups who, ironically, suffered the consequences of this measure.
These – predictable – impacts do not appear to have been factored into the creation or development of the policy, nor during the six months it has remained unchanged, despite demands from groups that have protested against it. Panama must guarantee equality in the development of public policies and anticipate the possible negative impacts that they may have in order to avoid aggravating inequalities within society.
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