The Covid-19 pandemic has had direct and indirect effects on religiously marginalised groups, exacerbating existing inequities and undermining the ambitions of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to reach (and include) those ‘furthest behind’. Religious inequalities intersect with other inequalities to compound vulnerabilities, particularly the convergence of low socioeconomic status, gender inequality, and location-specific discrimination and insecurity, to shape how people are experiencing the pandemic.
This policy briefing, written by Dr Joanna Howard (IDS) and a co-author (who must remain anonymous for reasons of personal security), draws on research with religious minorities living in urban slums in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states in India. Findings show that religiously motivated discrimination reduced their access to employment and statutory services during the pandemic. Harassment and violence experienced by Muslims worsened; and loss of livelihoods, distress, and despair were also acutely experienced by dalit Hindus. Government response and protection towards lower caste and religious minorities has been insufficient.