Bristol Studies in Law and Justice
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At the beginning of February 2020, the first cases of COVID-19 infection were detected in Israel. As the number of confirmed patients increased, movement and activity restrictions were imposed on the public. While stopping the spread of the virus and almost eradicating the pandemic, the results were short-lived. The reappearance of the pandemic revealed not only the fragility of the human body but also exposed a weakening of solidarity in Israeli society. This chapter describes the weakening of the value of solidarity in Israeli society as it manifested during the pandemic. The authors claim that this phenomenon played an important role in deepening existing social inequalities. It is suggested that while the refusal to carry the costs required to stop the spreading of the pandemic affected the entire population, it had a greater impact on disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors (for example, the elderly, the disabled, low socioeconomic status individuals, women and victims of domestic violence), thus exacerbating social inequalities. The aim of this chapter is to examine the role of the Israeli law governance in responding to the pandemic by looking into and scrutinizing the protocols of meetings of various committees in the Israeli parliament that discussed the public health restrictions.
In March 2020, the government introduced a set of restrictions to ‘lockdown’ the United Kingdom in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the central purpose of which was to protect public health by both containing the rate of infection and protecting the NHS’ capacity to treat a potential influx of patients. These rules represented a profound interference with everyday life, but it was clear that this interference was experienced differently throughout the population. In this chapter, the authors draw upon an extensive dataset – constituted of national surveys, focus groups, and interviews – gathered during the first wave of the virus in the UK to provide an analysis of how this was experienced by women. The authors test the hypothesis that it may be that women are more likely to find certain rules that interfere with prior caring responsibilities more challenging than others, and argue that research examining compliance to individual rules might better highlight gender differences in compliance than overall compliance.
It is a trite observation to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way billions of people live their daily lives. There has been an escalation of government interference in the mundane experiences of day-to-day existence. This has included limitations on travel, mask mandates and social distancing, and, of course, ‘lockdowns’. These restrictions have been criticized for the economic harm they have caused, but perhaps the more salient objection, at least for a political philosopher, is the claim that COVID-19 restrictions undermine personal liberty, freedom and individual autonomy. This seems to be the public rallying cry for many of those opposed to the restrictions, including public figures like Lord Sumption. There is a glimmer of truth in this claim, but the problem is misrepresented. The real issue is not with COVID-19 restrictions in themselves but that they are arbitrarily formulated and liable to partial enforcement. This reveals that the problem is not just one of liberty but of equality. This chapter examines and revises the liberty objection within the theory of libertarianism to make it more attuned to the problem of arbitrary power and inequality.
South Korea’s response to COVID-19 relied extensively on digital technology. The government adopted digital surveillance and tracing measures instead of implementing physical lockdowns. The Korea case shows how digital technology can be utilized to enhance public safety but also potentially risks privacy, data security and social equity. These dilemmas over the extensive digital measures are concerned with the fundamental question of the governance of digital technologies. New technologies utilized for COVID-19 policies have great potential to support individuals’ rights, especially right to health. However, technologies are initially not designed to serve human rights purposes but for containment of virus, we need to be conscious of the way in which these new technologies pose significant challenges to human rights. The problem is that most international human rights instruments were initially drafted for the offline world and may not reflect the realities of the digital age. Therefore, it is critical to understand the human rights implications for each stage of the key health and quarantine measures. It is essential even at the early stages of a development of technology, to consider human rights impacts, including economic, social, and cultural rights and the rights of minority groups.
As a part of its responses to COVID-19, Canada’s federal and provincial governments, including Ontario’s, have introduced measures aiming specifically to safeguard the health of migrant workers, supposedly out of the recognition that they are ‘essential’. Among other things, publicly funded healthcare is temporarily expanded to cover some of the previously uninsured workers, and public dollars are allocated for improving occupational health in the agri-food industry, where many migrants are employed. Several immigration programs have also been launched to offer certain migrant workers a pathway to permanent residence in Canada. This chapter critiques these government interventions, as well as the narrative of ‘essentiality’ that underlies them. It argues that these pandemic measures perpetuate the logic of neoliberal labour flexibilization, which has long permeated Canada’s migrant worker program. They do so by paying inadequate attention to so-called ‘essential’ migrant workers’ existing vulnerabilities, thus allowing employers to skirt public health rules. At the same time, they paint ‘non-essential’ migrants as undeserving of government consideration, which reinforces these migrants’ marginalization. A supply of exploitable workers is therefore maintained during the pandemic. Ultimately, it is the interest of market capitalism that proves to be what is truly essential.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, stark social inequalities have increasingly been revealed and, in many cases, been exacerbated by the global health crisis.
This book explores these inequalities, identifying three thematic strands: power and governance, gender, and marginalised communities. By examining these three themes in relation to the effects of the pandemic, the book uncovers how unequal the pandemic truly is. It brings together invaluable insights from a range of international scholars across multiple disciplines to critically analyse how these inequalities have played out in the context of COVID-19 as a first step towards achieving social justice.
During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold globally, claiming countless lives, yet more widely throwing everyday life into disarray for countless more. As the pandemic unfolded, it became more and more obvious that while everyone was susceptible to contracting the virus, there were stark social inequalities being brought to the fore in many areas outside simply direct health consequences. The topic of COVID-19 led to an explosion of scholarship. However, while many studies have focused on the medical impact of the virus as a global health crisis, few have considered the multifaceted, international and multidisciplinary issues around social inequalities connected to the pandemic, its handling and its effects. The originality in this volume is thus its consideration of these issues in relation to the pandemic, focusing on thematic strands to gain a greater understanding of these underlying problems, including how the law, or absence of it, has exacerbated inequalities. Three strands emerged from considering inequalities beyond just the virus itself: on power and governance, on gender and for marginalized communities on the basis of race, ethnicity and migration status. It is under these three themes that this collection uncovers how unequal the pandemic truly is.
This chapter reflects on the work of the multidisciplinary and international contributors to this collection by putting their contributions into wider perspective. It does so by offering avenues for future research that look for solutions to eliminate inequalities beyond the context of just the COVID-19 pandemic using the lens of intersectionality. Indeed, the overall aim of this collection is to look beyond the virus, and this chapter seeks to situate the contributions in this collection into the fabric of everyday society. In this way, we can progress towards social justice.
This chapter examines the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on judicial protection of the right to health for those incarcerated and free. In both cases, courts in Brazil had significant incentives to take the pandemic seriously and to consider its disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. For the judicial system, however, it has mostly been business as usual. Despite the pandemic, judges have been unwilling to guarantee the right to health for those imprisoned. By analysing habeas corpus decisions on petitions filed because of COVID-19 and the higher risks faced inside prisons, the chapter reveals how judges were indifferent to the public-health risks presented by overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. For those who are free, most health litigation was still presented in the form of individual cases seeking access to uncovered services and medicines. These cases followed the same patterns as before the pandemic: courts kept deciding in favour of claimants regardless of the potential disruptive effects of their decisions over public policy, including priorities related to COVID-19.
This collection examines social inequalities brought to stark attention by the COVID-19 pandemic under three thematic strands: power and governance, gender, and marginalized communities. This project brings together a range of international scholars from multiple disciplines (law, sociology and politics) to showcase a diversity of perspectives on these themes. The unknowns around this virus and the scale of the epidemic make COVID-19 and its inequalities a timely subject. Understanding each of these issues from the perspective of multiple disciplines, with law at its centre, is the first step towards tackling them concretely and achieving social justice. The thematic coherence on social inequalities affecting vulnerable groups from international and multidisciplinary lenses is the book’s central feature.