Home » Blog » Științe naturale » Pandemia: Women and Policewomen

Pandemia: Women and Policewomen

Cunoasterea - Descarcă PDFTorma, Albert (2023), Pandemia: Women and Policewomen, Cunoașterea Științifică, 2:2, 37-47, https://www.cunoasterea.ro/pandemia-women-and-policewomen/



The COVID-19 pandemic has shocked the entire world, placing an additional burden on all people, regardless of gender, age, health condition, or social status. The pandemic also affects women’s decision to have children, pregnancy, childbirth circumstances, parental involvement, health status, and partnerships. The study addresses the challenges facing women, in particular the situation of female staff serving in the Police Force, who also have to cope with the increased workload resulting from the epidemic.

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, policewomen, women’s mental health

Pandemie: Femei și polițiste


Pandemia de COVID-19 a șocat întreaga lume, punând o povară suplimentară asupra tuturor oamenilor, indiferent de sex, vârstă, stare de sănătate sau statut social. Pandemia afectează, de asemenea, decizia femeilor de a avea copii, sarcina, circumstanțele nașterii, implicarea părinților, starea de sănătate și parteneriatele. Studiul abordează provocările cu care se confruntă femeile, în special situația personalului de sex feminin din cadrul poliției, care trebuie să facă față și volumului de muncă crescut rezultat din epidemie.

Cuvinte cheie: COVID-19, pandemie, polițiști, sănătatea mintală a femeilor


CUNOAȘTEREA ȘTIINȚIFICĂ, Volumul 2, Numărul 2, Iunie 2023, pp. 37-47
ISSN 2821 – 8086, ISSN – L 2821 – 8086
URL: https://www.cunoasterea.ro/pandemia-women-and-policewomen/
© 2023 Albert Torma. Responsabilitatea conținutului, interpretărilor și opiniilor exprimate revine exclusiv autorilor.


Pandemia: Women and Policewomen

Col. Albert Torma MD., JD.




In Hungary, women have had the opportunity to serve in the police since 1946, initially to replace men killed in World War II. The first policewomen were assigned traffic control and child protection duties, which were later extended. The participation of women in the police force has been on the increase, as illustrated by the fact that the proportion of women doubled between 1994 and 2004 and has continued to do so. In 2004, the proportion of women in professional service in Hungary was 17% of the total professional staff, rising to 30% in 2012 (Földesi, 2013, pp. 161-168). Women in the Police Force have typically served mainly in the investigation department, due to the particular need for thoroughness, a high degree of diligence and the ability to look into things. The other area, also typical, is administrative policing, where the predominance of women in police force is still evident today. However, the situation now seems to have levelled out, with women police officers being able to demonstrate their abilities in almost all areas of specialisation, a situation which is facilitated by the fact that there is a pay ratio within the professional ranks, i.e. women and men in the same job receive exactly the same pay. Based on a representative survey carried out in one of the county police headquarters (Földesi, 2013, pp. 161-168), the results show that the background of professional interest and commitment to work within the police is very high – 80% – among women applying for professional status, a figure that correlates substantially with the indicator of motivation of men. The survey also highlighted the somewhat unexpected perception among employees that the closed, dependent system makes women employees more protected, but also more difficult, and that the position of women in the Police Force is therefore in some respects more favourable than in other jobs.

Women police officers have had an independent international organisation since March 1989, and the Hungarian Policewomen’s Organisation was founded in 1993 to promote equal opportunities between women and men in the Police Force. It can be stated that working in the Police Force is more demanding for women than working in civilian life, because of the hierarchical nature of the Police Force, the constant psychological pressure and the need for physical performance in certain positions. Add to these characteristics the expectations that women have traditionally had to meet as women outside the Police Force, and overall the police profession is more challenging than average for women who choose it.

Common challenges posed by the COVID-19 virus

The emergence of COVID-19, published in Vuhan in December 2019, has now shocked the world. As a result of the gradual spread of the virus, all those affected have had to reorganise their lives, given that the infection is not spreading in a closed world under certain conditions, but in everyday situations among ordinary people. Studies clearly show that there are no exceptions, that the consequences of the infection are individual and unpredictable – a factor that makes the epidemic so incredibly difficult to combat. It is impossible to generalise, to the best of our knowledge there are no absolute immune individuals, no age, no health status, no other objectifiable human characteristic that would allow anyone to feel absolutely safe outside the pandemic. Research is being carried out on a daily basis with unprecedented intensity, while at the same time, seeing and sensing the pace and nature of the spread of the infection, there is a race against time. Paradoxically, we should be reacting to the effects of the virus before we know the consequences. Hence, enormous tensions have been generated, at the societal, family and individual levels. The main question is how to defend ourselves against an enemy about which we have little information, but whose constant attacks force us to resist. There is no doubt that time favours the COVID-19 virus, the longer we delay in responding, the less effective we are in combating the spread of the infection. Defence affects every aspect of our lives and, even more worryingly, we are most vulnerable to attack at the very points that are of paramount importance to human existence, namely human relationships. Experience has shown that human beings can endure many things, be it hunger, illness, humiliation of any kind, or other harm that may seem unbearable, but it is loneliness, isolation from our fellow human beings, which is the most difficult to endure, and the persistence of which can lead to psychological symptoms and personality distortion. It is no coincidence that exile as a form of punishment is a severe blow to the person concerned, that solitary confinement in the penal system is not a privilege but a sanction for breaking the rules, and that the internationally circumscribed criminals are often caught because of the intolerable isolation they suffer.

The impact of the COVID-19 epidemic is uniform in that it is felt directly or indirectly by all members of society, regardless of gender, age, health or social status.

On a daily basis, women’s sensitivity to world affairs is felt, and their presence is always felt in a community, whether it is a small family circle or a large multinational company or a political sphere. It is also a dominant presence, as is the well-known fact that the strong leader of the most dominant organised crime group bows to her mother’s criticism and will. In addition to this, there is a tendency for women to be present in areas that would previously have been unthinkable, such as in the political arena, in armed forces or in certain sports traditionally reserved for men, or in crime and terrorist attacks. It follows from the above that, in addition to the typically feminine tasks of family, household and child-rearing, women must also take on the activities of the newer conquered territories.

The impact of the pandemic on women police officers

Women in the police service may be more sensitive and more responsive to problems that affect women in general, but which are even more prominent during the pandemic (childbearing, pregnancy, post-natal period, parenting, intimate partner violence), in addition to the obligation to carry out their professional activities, which require a high level of attention. An additional, almost natural consequence of women’s changed life rhythms and the restructuring of their tasks is anxiety, which, in generalised form, develops gradually, at first unnoticed, and later becomes a generalised condition that can become a hindrance to everyday life (Murillo et al., 2021, pp. 1-5). Anxiety can increase to the point where medical intervention or drug therapy may be necessary, and can also affect later life.

The selflessness and caring attitude that is so characteristic of women in the Police Force during the epidemic is also reflected in their activities. According to data from a survey of policewomen in Moscow (Soloviev & Zhernov, 2020, 213-215), 76% of policewomen who served at a mass event were not concerned about their own health, but about the possibility of infecting relatives and friends if they became infected. Despite the fact that more than half of the policewomen in the study showed signs of depression, they coped better in stressful situations with better neuropsychological adaptation and more effective coping.

The health status of women

Women are over-represented in two areas of priority for the epidemic. On the one hand, 70% of the global health workforce is female (URL1), a fact that in itself confirms the increased risk of women in relation to the pandemic. On the other hand, the fact that women make up the majority of the elderly population, with 57% of the population aged 70 and 62% of the population aged 80 (URL2), is not negligible. Overall, women have a longer life expectancy but fewer years of good health. In many ways, the pandemic has changed women’s attitudes to health, and this will have long-term effects. A positive consequence is that the care and concern for relatives and family has also led to a change in health awareness, notably in terms of greater attention to healthy eating. On the other hand, looking at the impact of the pandemic from a global perspective, around 2/3 of women have become more anxious and 60% have had to postpone regular medical check-ups, which poses a significant health risk in later life, especially for those with chronic diseases. The postponement of regular medical check-ups for chronic patients is of utmost importance, if only because patients with chronic illnesses are at increased risk of COVID-19-related disease progression, which impairs their chances of recovery. In relation to the epidemic, it can also be noted that 50% of women worldwide have poorer sleep, a condition that exacerbates the anxiety mentioned earlier.

The effect of COVID-19 on childbearing

It is undisputed that childbearing is the most decisive period in a woman’s life. Nowadays, all the conditions are in place to build up the awareness of the childbearing plan that is necessary for the emotional stability that a woman needs to be able to look forward to the birth of her child in a balanced way. This is one of the most important events of her life, and its impact will therefore last for the rest of her life. There are a number of conditions for consciuos planning, including the possibility of contraception, regular check-ups, a sense of financial stability, a relaxed and at least partially stress-free work environment, and a sense that the unborn child will lead a healthy life.

A staggering 45% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned or unconscious pregnancies. The very fact that the role of COVID-19 on the developing foetus is not yet fully understood, and that obstetric-gynaecological care may be limited due to the care of patients with the coronavirus, or that it may pose a health risk to the expectant woman and her foetus, makes it a difficult decision for couples who are considering having a child. In Italy, a comprehensive study found that the number of couples who were considering having children before the COVID-19 pandemic fell by 37.3% in Italy due to the pandemic. The most common reasons behind this phenomenon were financial uncertainty and fears of complications related to possible coronavirus infection during pregnancy. A not unimportant factor is that the period around childbearing is inherently stressful for a woman, a basic feeling that is exacerbated by anxiety about infection (Almeida, 2020, pp. 741-748).

Childbearing awareness can be easily implemented in an epidemic-free period. Regular medical check-ups and a range of contraceptive options to prevent unwanted pregnancy can make the arrival of a child a welcome and joyful event. During the COVID-19 epidemic, the conditions for this awareness are not or only to a limited extent available. There is a risk associated with regular visits to specialists, given the risk of infection associated with travel, in the waiting room or during the examination, which cannot be excluded even with the greatest precautions. Therefore, the number of these examinations may be reduced, which may result in the contraceptive being outdated or inadequate, and thus the risk of unwanted pregnancy. It is not a minor factor that the workload of health personnel in COVID-19 control is of concern for all specialties, as medical training is already a huge help for general care, not all interventions require specialist medical training. The reduced number of specialist examinations confuses awareness of protection and creates uncertainty about the possibility of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy. This is compounded by the fact that, because of the risk of infection, visits to pharmacies are limited to the bare minimum. All these factors combine to disrupt, and in some cases make impossible, the process of consciously planning for a child, a process that already requires caution and serious determination. Another important aspect of the issue of having children is that it is relevant not only at an individual level but also at a societal level.

Pregnancy during a pandemic

One of the indisputable advantages of being aware of having children is that the period of pregnancy is accompanied by calm and balanced inner feelings. It is a well-known fact that fetal development is profoundly influenced by the mother’s mental and physical state, and that the mother’s role in fetal development is fundamental. It is, however, natural that certain psychological processes are transformed during pregnancy, but these are by no means abnormal if they are mild. However, these psychological changes can reach abnormal levels. According to one study (Fairbrother, Young, Zhang, Janssen & Antony, 2017), one in seven pregnant women experience anxiety, depression and stress during the birth of their child, especially if there are any risk factor is also present.

Pregnancy, commonly referred to in popular parlance as „the other state”, is fundamentally shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic situation, as it is a natural maternal feeling to associate the anxious, worried feeling of the pandemic with feelings of motherhood. Above all, one of the most preoccupying questions, and one that is constant throughout pregnancy, is how to avoid infection. Obviously, there is the question of improved hygiene and precautions, but the most important preventive factor, the reduction in direct contact, has a negative effect in this respect, in addition to its undoubted benefits. Pregnant women need to be cared for and treated gently in order to maintain good health, not to strain themselves, to find support and assistance from others in their increasingly limited mobility, and to be surrounded by a loving environment, especially from their family and parents. The COVID-19 epidemic deprives pregnant women of this support, as any personal contact can also pose a risk of infection, leaving them isolated, however distressing their pregnancy may be. The inevitable consequence of this phenomenon is psychological change, feelings of uncertainty, depression or anxiety.

The risk of hospital visits during an epidemic is, of course, a particular problem associated with pregnancy, which is different from that associated with having a child, in that it is unavoidable for health reasons. Despite the fear of infection, it is not possible to avoid these visits, not least because they are not only important for a woman’s health, but also for the healthy development of her foetus and to minimise complications during childbirth. It is understandable that, in times of epidemics, these visits are associated with anxiety and worry in the expectant mother.

With regard to pregnancy, it should be noted that the hungarian regulatory system allows women working in the Police Force to enjoy a period of calm pregnancy, away from the demands of the workplace, due to their early entitlement to sick leave, which can mitigate the undesirable effects of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Postpartum difficulties during the epidemic

After giving birth, a woman who has given birth to a child is faced with a new set of difficulties that must be resolved immediately, but which can be overcome without major problems during an epidemic-free period with the right assistance.

The most important factor is social support, the lack of which is significantly correlated with the development of postnatal depression. Social support is a complex concept: it involves the supportive assistance of family, friends, (grand)parents, professional health care staff. During the COVID-19 pandemic, all these factors are hampered or disrupted for a variety of reasons. On the one hand, in order to minimise the risk of infection, the number of visits, which the mother is so eagerly awaiting, must be severely limited to protect the mother and the baby. On the other hand, the activity of health staff in protective gear further increases the sense of isolation. Increased attention is required in relation to decontamination and, in general, every little detail must be seen in terms of the potential risk of infection, which, by definition, distracts attention from the sources of pleasure that the situation can bring.

The home help of a woman who has been discharged from hospital and is still physically recovering may be reduced to zero as a result of the epidemic. Traditionally, parental support is available, mainly through an experienced grandparent, but the particularly vulnerable condition of this age group means that the new mother has to cope with the lack of it. Unfortunately, both the grandparent, who is at risk because of her age, and the mother, who is at risk of infection during childbirth, are mutually threatening, leaving the mother returning home from hospital without practical and emotional support. This is particularly problematic in families with several children, where the older child is not yet able to care for him/herself and may be a carrier, bringing COVID-19 home asymptomatic and infecting both mother and grandparent.

Social support implies both physical and psychological help. Following childbirth, the woman is exhausted and her sleep cycle is disrupted, which has a major impact on her psychological well-being. Getting a few hours of sleep is of unspeakable importance in a mother’s daily life. Exhausted, with a freshly healed wound, she can barely support herself, and her food and care are irreplaceable help, which the partner who generates the income is unable to provide. For a single woman, the situation is critical. Psychological support should not be neglected either, as exhaustion and sleeplessness are a strong predisposing factor for depression.

A separate issue is the position on breastfeeding in relation to the COVID-19 epidemic. It is generally known that protective factors in breast milk are essential for the development of a healthy immunity and are therefore of fundamental importance in the defence against COVID-19. However, breast-feeding an infected mother without protective equipment – a mask – can produce a positive coronavirus test result for the infant. There is consensus that the continuity of breast milk feeding is not affected by the mother’s COVID-19 infection, given that maternal infection provides passive protection to the newborn infant through antibodies in breast milk.

COVID-19 and parental involvement

COVID-19 has forced families to rethink their daily lives, as the epidemic has spread and forced each family member to make changes. The problem is particularly acute for couples with children who are not yet self-sufficient or have limited self-sufficiency, as the woman raising her children has to manage the homework, the household tasks and the children’s education at the same time. For the woman forced to stay at home, the pandemic also makes it necessary to take on educational tasks, since digital education cannot, of course, replace traditional teaching in all respects. In general, 87% of students have stayed at home due to the pandemic, which makes it extremely difficult for parents to maintain the quality of education. One particularly vulnerable segment of students who stay at home – globally – is adolescent girls, whose involvement in domestic work and home-based activities risks leaving some of them simply unable or unwilling to return to education. The tension and even aggression that can arise from this situation, which can target children, is not debatable and is almost a matter of course.

This problem is particularly acute in the case of women who have one or more children on their own. The lack of a balanced emotional and financial support creates a situation of anxiety and tension, which the woman, who has to cope on all fronts, has to deal with alone, in virtual isolation. The situation is made even more intractable by the fact that this isolation is perpetuated, since with such a workload the single woman has no chance of finding a partner or of sorting out her emotional and/or financial mess.

An additional issue for women working in law enforcement is that some positions cannot be teleworked and there are women in the field who work on-call or 12-hour shifts rather than on official duty. These problems are compounded to a large extent by difficulties in providing services, which can result in workers starting work tired and sleepless. This issue is important because women on duty within the Police Force have the right and, in certain circumstances, the obligation to carry weapons.

All of these problems are compounded by the issue of finances. As a starting point, it is striking to note that, globally, women are generally three times less well paid than their male counterparts. The COVID-19 epidemic has a greater impact on individuals working in certain sectors, such as hospitality, tourism and the arts, who, if they are partners in parenting with a woman under pressure, are deprived of income, which creates tension, anxiety and an additional psychological burden on the woman.

Increase in intimate partner violence in quarantine

It is an unfortunate fact that the phenomenon of intimate partner violence is on the rise around the world. The number of calls to support services for assaulted women is on an intense rise, tripling in Canada, rising by 30% in France and tripling in China over the same period, according to National Public Radio (2020). According to UN data, since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a frightening increase in domestic violence, which is caused by economic and social factors, aggravated by overcrowding in the home, a sense of isolation and a reduction in contact with peers. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the epidemic makes it difficult or impossible to escape from violence, to run away and to seek help.

In the event of natural disasters, violence against partners is on the rise. During the August 2017 tropical cyclone 4 in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, which made a direct hit on Houston, Texas, both partner violence and child abuse were higher than in the previous period.

No other consequences are expected during the COVID-19 epidemic. The multifactorial factors listed above, taken alone but in combination, tend to increase feelings of anxiety, depression, worry and psychological distress, which inevitably lead to increased aggression, and women under intense pressure to overcome the problems generated by the situation are no exception. The consequence of this aggressive attitude is the need to defuse it, and the victims of this aggression are couples living in the same household, family members and children forced to stay at home because of the general quarantine imposed throughout the world. The need for women to fulfil and meet their needs in many areas at the same time – meeting the demands of the labour market, looking after a family, elderly parents and children, looking after the household, and fear of being left alone – makes them more in need of support. This circumstance, however, also increases their vulnerability, i.e. the possible confrontation or lack of support instead of the expected support leads to a stronger and deeper impact in the expression of intimate partner violence (Saad-Filho, 2020, pp. 477-485).


The COVID-19 pandemic has, it is no exaggeration to say, changed our world, and women, especially women law enforcement officers, who are subject to increased mental and physical stresses in their work, are the protagonists of this transformation. The present study has highlighted the prominent role of women during this epidemic and the fact that the workload of policewomen during this period may be higher than the general workload. Women police officers and women working in other fields face common challenges during the pandemic because of their health, childbearing, pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and possible involvement in intimate partner violence. A few adaptive mechanisms can help address the many stressors caused by the pandemic. These include organisation of daily tasks, frequent contact via telecommunications as far as possible, stress-reducing activities in the home (yoga, meditation), but above all, attention and appreciation for women, without whom daily life during the pandemic would become unmanageable.

References used

Almeida, M., Shrestha, A.D, Stojanac, D. & Miller, L.J. (2020). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s mental health.  Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 23(6), 741-748.

Földesi K. (2013). Férfiak és nők a rendőrségen (Men and Women in the Police). In Gaál Gy. & Hautzinger Z. (Szerk), Pécsi Határőr Tudományos Közlemények, XIV. szám (pp. 161-168). Magyar Hadtudományi Társaság

Saad-Filho, A. (2020). From COVID-19 to the End of Neoliberalism Critical Sociology, 4(5), 477-485.

Silverio-Murillo, A., Hoehn-Velasco, L., Balmori de la Miyar, J.S. & Rodriguez, A. (2021). COVID-19 and women’s health: Examining changes in mental health and fertility. Economic Letters, 199(109729), 1-5.

Soloviev, A., Zhernov, S. & Ichitovkina, E. (2020). Female Moscow Police Officers’ Emotional Reactions Features during Service int he COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Conditions. Journal of Biomedical Research and Environmental Sciences, 1(6), 213-215.

Online references in the article

URL1: Aksu, Serap: Hidden costs – how Covid-19 is threatening women’s long-term physical and mental health. www.axa.com

URL2: Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women. https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/policy-brief-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-women-en.pdf?la=en&vs=1406

Follow Albert Torma:
Pol. Col. Dr. Albert Torma the Chief Medical Officer of the Hungarian Law Enforcement and the Head of the Medical Revision Department of the Hungarian Government Ministry of Interior. Dr. Torma a medical and legal doctor, specialist in Forensic Medicine, Insurance Medicine and Public Health. He had been a former listed Forensic Medical Expert of the International Criminal Court.
Ultimele articole de la

Lasă un răspuns

Adresa ta de email nu va fi publicată. Câmpurile obligatorii sunt marcate cu *