Domestic Violence and The Lockdown: A disagreeable setting – By Shambhavi Singh
Domestic violence is a form of violence that has been persistently plaguing our society at large. Irrespective of countries one belongs to, the engraved dominance of such violence against women has time; and again surfaced as shreds of evidence of the backwardness of our society. Efforts have been made but such instances purport otherwise; as it culminates the predisposed notion of our society which is impervious to accept equality of gender. Notwithstanding the many successes, our society has seen in different fields; as it all becomes mere subjective rudimentary figures in our heads; due to the mental set back we face collectively due to dogmatic beliefs about genders. Mental upbringing and development is still a far fetched idea.
Effect of the Pandemic: COVID-19
In the wake of 2020 a new virus which is called Coronavirus; erupted in Wuhan, China, and now has widely spread all around the world; with death tolls up to 3,497,006 as of May 3rd, 2020. With no medicine or vaccine to cure this virus which has continuously been taking lives; and almost all countries are under lockdown and strictly following social distancing; countries’ economies has slowed down; oil prices have depreciated to less than a bottle of water; accompanied by the recession; unemployment and dormant socio-economic lives.
We are also facing a detrimental condition of women; who are victims of domestic abuse as in this emergency situation in; and around the world the number of cases of domestic violence has risen significantly in countries; such as Spain, France, Germany, the UK, America, South Africa, etc. In the first week of lockdown in Spain; there was a 47% increase in the calls to Spain’s domestic violence cell helpline; over the same period last year as per the reports of the Guardian. According to The Economist, France has seen a 30% rise in the reporting of domestic violence cases. Earlier this month, UN chief Antonio Guterres also called for measures to address a “horrifying global surge in domestic violence”; directed towards women and girls, linked to lockdowns imposed by governments responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Condition in India
India is no exception, as per the reports of the National Commission for Women (NCW), which is a government body apparently has recorded more than two folds rise in gender-based violence during this lockdown. As per the report, 77 cases of domestic violence were filed in the very first week of lockdown; 15 cases of harassment of married women in the home; 2 dowry deaths, and 13 cases of rape; and/or attempt to rape. States like Uttar Pradesh has seen the influx of cases of crimes against women with 90 cases with the start of the lockdown; Delhi with 37 cases, Bihar 18 cases and MP and Maharashtra 11 and 18 respectively.
And this may as well continue as the very act of domestic violence including other crimes against women are the most underreported crimes of all. With this pandemic, the reporting/ filling will deduce since the victim and perpetrators shall cohabit; which shall only worsen the situation with no way of redemption. Crime against women is an ongoing offense; which even after several attempts by governments, judiciary, executive; and/or the NGOs who work for women safety had not slowed down. For instance, India is a country that is still struggling to eradicate dowry death cases; sexual harassment, forced marriage, child marriage, and domestic violence.
This Condition is getting worse in Pandemic
With this lockdown there is a beginning of a silent pandemic; where women are abused silently with possibly no reporting of the same; and the virus which is killing them is the stigma around the fact that they shall not complain against their husbands; which subsequently make the people fighting for such women hold no relevance; whatsoever due to the mentality of these victims and their preconceived notion that making a stir of their ordeal is immoral; as it is their husbands who abuse them and they rightly so can!
Such is the situation of many victims who refuses to complain instead would accept their fate of getting abused by their husbands; due to their so-called immorality of complaining against their husbands. Some women live in the dilemma of either complaining and being a puppet for the society; who will not hesitate to abuse her for leaving her husband which results in no reporting of crime. Others find it troublesome to complain because of their instilled emotion and time to their relationship which shall leave blotch on their bond.
Domestic Violence = Domestic Virus
It is also a type of virus which shouts the prevalence of male dominance in our society; and it is this virus that cuffs the neck of our society in the backdrop of patriarchy; and such values embedded so deeply that all the efforts, works or legislations have not been able to break this cycle of endangering women to satisfy the male ego.
It is saddening to see such an imperative effect whilst we cannot only stand pondering upon the adversities of women; instead it is time for our governments, organizations; and the people in our society to stand up for these women who are in dire need to be protected.
Steps by Govt. & Society
Swadhar Homes for Women is established by Sakshi One Stop Centres; set up by the Ministry of Women Child Welfare, Government of India, to help women and children; which were renamed as Disha Centres by the State government. In all 23, Swadhar Homes are established which are providing shelter to women who are victims of domestic abuse in the state of Kerala where helpline number is given; and in case of any domestic abuse, women are rescued from their homes and given shelters.
All the state governments should establish rehabilitation centers in their states; and delegate a task force around their respective states to establish branches physically as well as virtually; in order to support women to report cases without any fear. There shall be an establishment of judicial or a quasi-judicial body to do the proceedings; as soon as they are reported and confirmed. Thereby, in case of sheltering the victims, the already established centers would come to use for them with state funding.
Rather than depending upon the state completely; this is also the duty of people residing near an abusive perpetrator; and save the victim whom they know are living in stark hostility and have the danger to their lives. Rather than always depending and questioning the government, individuals who are in a position to help must not overlook it. In a critical situation like this, every little support will count; and no matter how different one thinks he/she is until unless you do not contribute to the development of the society and have the ability to stand up against the wrongs; you do not have the right to question it as well.
Countries like France where victims of domestic violence can visit newly created drop-in centers near supermarkets; or stay in a hotel room at the government’s expense. Similarly in Spain, those who would like to report violence at home can discreetly visit a pharmacy; and give the code word “Mask 19”. The pharmacist will then alert the authorities concerned. In Denmark, the organization working in this sphere has seen a decline in calls for reporting of domestic abuse; whereas the calls for emergency shelter has increased significantly which purports; that the mental health and stability are concerns for these governments.
In the hindsight, the massive influx of cases in Europe signifies the gravity of the present issue in concern. It is no different in its threat to the whole nation than the Pandemic; since both are a threat to lives considering that domestic abuses do include men/boys as well whereby the sincerity; that the government has shown in creating a safe environment for the people from COVID 19 must; as well understand the profundity of this issue as soon as possible.
Steps to be taken!
If the responsible authorities such as the government, judiciary, NGOs, private organizations, etc; do not implement their plans to safeguard the lives of these victims who are domesticated out of compulsion; and are facing abuses will have a severe mental illness; such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic disorder naming a few. This matter requires attention from every state in order to take action in their states with immediate effects for; it will not only hamper the socio-economic dynamic of the country; but would pose severe mental illness all around the nation.
It is indeed a challenging task to curb this pandemic whilst dealing with one already but the former is subtly; or unsubtly persisted in our society for the longest of time and instances of this nature occurs normally as well; and it may as well happen again if we do not work to change the very foundational mental structure of our system; which intentionally or unintentionally feeds patriarchy; and if not done so, then; the situation of women and men shall only worsen with time wherein the amount of pressure and obligations will increase and these issues shall resurface time and again and we the people of India will keep talking about the rights, equality, justice, and liberty with no inherent meaning attached to it due to the mental strata of our people.
This Article is written by Shambhavi Singh, content writer and legal researcher at Legal Thirst. She is a 2nd year Law student at JIMS School of Law, GGSIPU.