‘Women-only’ housework questions on Covid form spark ridicule

Health authority withdraws coronavirus patient questionnaire after sexism complaints

A health authority has come under fire after distributing a questionnaire to recovering Covid-19 patients that included questions about cooking and housekeeping aimed solely at women.

The questionnaire, issued in Italy's Lombardy region and intended to capture the lingering symptoms of coronavirus, was being given to patients invited back to hospitals for check-ups. The questions aimed to assess people's energy levels by asking them how they were coping with performing simple tasks, such as doing the shopping, using the telephone and whether they drive or use public transport. But three of the questions about preparing food, managing the home and doing the laundry were marked "only for women".

Authorities in Lombardy said they were investigating the matter after Luca Paladini, a spokesperson for Sentinelli di Milano, an activist group that fights against all forms of discrimination, posted the questionnaire on his Facebook page. Comments beneath the post condemned the questionnaire as "sexist".

Paladini, who had Covid-19 a few months ago, was asked to fill in the form when he went to Milan’s Bollate hospital for a check-up. “It’s strange to say the least, let alone discriminatory and ridiculous,” he told Corriere della Sera.


The questionnaire, which was issued by the ASST Rhodense health authority in Milan, appears to have been an Italian translation of the “Lawton instrumental activities of daily living scale”, a method conceived in the United States in 1969 and used mainly among elderly people to assess their ability to independently perform daily tasks. The questionnaire also queries people’s ability to take medication by themselves and manage money. The original American format has no questions marked exclusively for women, however.

“So how come this wasn’t the case for the Italian one? Am I the only one who noticed?” said Paladini.

As the controversy unfolded, ASST Rhodense withdrew the questionnaire, saying that there had been an "error in translation" and that "there was no discriminatory intent". Its director general, Ida Ramponi, said: "I am very sorry for what happened. At the moment we are reviewing the forms and at the same time have begun an internal inquiry to verify how it was possible to make such a mistake." – Guardian