CREA Reflection on COVID-19

2 April 2020

We are here to rethink, reimagine and reboot, together. 

We at CREA want to express solidarity with everyone with whom we work: our colleagues, networks, partners, and most importantly, the constituencies alongside whom we fight, and their partners and networks as well. 


Public health is a feminist issue. We urge our governments to adopt a transformative, human rights approach in their COVID-19 response, with the wellbeing of all communities at the centre. 


We are troubled by the specific and universal ways in which this crisis has exacerbated inequalities in our world. We reject the language of war, casteism, and ableism entrenched in much of the discourse surrounding COVID-19. We will continue to strive  for a world in which universal healthcare is guaranteed as a right; where our doctors, nurses, hospital workers, those in manufacturing and distribution, caregivers for the elderly and persons with disabilities, sanitation workers, store workers, the labourers who keep our power on, water flowing and streets clean, are protected and where all lives are valued. 


Cross-movement and cross-border solidarity is more important than ever


Sex-workers, LGBTIQ persons, persons with disabilities, domestic workers and other daily-wage earners, are some of the groups who will be the worst affected by orders to self-isolate and stay home. We hope that all our efforts to support others in the coming weeks will include sex-workers and others who rely on daily wages, as well as all those who are unable to ‘self-isolate’ due to various social and economic circumstances, or because they need personal assistance. 


Times of lock-down / curfew with heavy police or military presence can be especially difficult for sex-workers, LGBTIQ persons and other vulnerable communities, who remain criminalized in varying contexts and are subjected to social stigma. 

For survivors of family violence, domestic violence and intimate partner violence, lock-downs can mean more exposure to violence. We need to create and strengthen bridges. Solidarity can save lives! 


COVID--19 and ableism

The pandemic has revealed the deeply-rooted ableism still prevalent in our societies. It is alarming that many governments, leaders and people seem to think that the lives of immunocompromised persons, the ageing population and persons with disabilities are not as valuable as others. 


COVID-19 has resurfaced many popular ableist pseudoscientific theories of ‘the virus as a cure’ or as ‘course correction’. Theories of ‘overpopulation’ and ‘natural selection’ are repeated, as a way of making meaning during this chaotic and uncertain time. These outdated theories have been roundly disputed by decades of scholarship in multiple strands of the sciences, and they are steeped in fascist ideology and eugenics. Our environmentalism doesn’t have to be ableist! 

Many day-to-day habits and conveniences for non-disabled people are being disrupted. This is a good moment for the rest of us to learn from disability rights movements. We can challenge normative ideas about ‘access’, ‘public space’ and who gets to participate. We can be proactive and familiarize ourselves with the online tools which make it possible for us to connect remotely with co-workers, families and friends. 

Privacy, Security and Safety


We are aware that governments around the world are responding to the COVID-19 crisis with an increase in surveillance and militarization. Government responses to COVID-19 have relied on using facial recognition technology, credit and debit card histories, travel app histories and other kinds of personal technological data to follow the ‘contact chain’ of infected individuals. The normalization and indeed celebration of these tactics by governments and law enforcement institutions poses a significant challenge to ongoing advocacy on privacy and protection of data. 

Armed forces and law enforcement are integrally involved in carrying out government response strategies in many contexts. A strict law-and-order approach is being taken in some places, where non-disclosure of potential exposure can mean criminalization and jail-time. Military involvement is especially unsettling in contexts where the military remains a symbol of violence and oppression.  

We are concerned about the extent to which the ‘security state’ is being expanded in many of our countries, about ongoing and possible future human rights abuses, and what it means for governance after the ‘crisis’ period of the pandemic has passed. 


In a time of devastation and isolation, we want to remain energized, alert and we want to hold on to hope. All our in-person meetings, convenings, Institutes and other gatherings are indefinitely postponed. We are trying to put as many of these online as possible and will make them accessible to you.


CREA will be hosting a series of online conversations on COVID-19; we will be discussing the impact of COVID-19 on the constituencies with whom we work, exploring the politics of the ‘essential’ with social scientists from the global South and interrogating the politics of pleasure, joy and desire in times of a pandemic. We will keep you informed!