COVID-19, declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, is currently causing colossal damage to the world economically, politically, psychologically as well as socially. In this article, I’d like to shed light on one such issue—an increase in cases of domestic violence, not just in India but internationally, since the beginning of the worldwide lockdowns.
The issue of domestic violence has always been prevalent in our society. In the case of domestic violence, a partner tends to abuse and assert power over the other. This can manifest in the form of physical, psychological, economic and sexual abuse. There can be a number of factors influencing this such as the abuser’s background, unemployment, poor living conditions, psychological instability and imbalance of power and control, etc. National Family Health Survey data shows that nearly 30 percent of women have experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives. To add to this, 75 percent of women who reported being subjected to violence did not seek any help.
Since the imposition of the lockdown, there has been a surge in the number of such cases. Reports show that helpline numbers across India have received about 92,000 related calls in initial 11 days of lockdown. Many cases and petitions have been brought to the attention of the court. The United Nations observed that the combination of economic and social stresses because of the pandemic, along with other lockdown measures, have dramatically increased the number of women facing domestic abuse, as self-quarantine puts them in perpetual proximity with their abusers. In India, too, norms of social distancing and stay-at-home orders have fuelled incidents of domestic violence. A lot of such cases aren’t being reported currently due to a number of additional factors. These include the inability of the victims to escape abuse or even call for help because of being quarantined in their houses. Before the lockdown, a victim would physically approach help centers or call them up when the partner was not at home. But because of the lockdown, the husband is at home all day and, hence, it becomes even more difficult for them to ask for help.
There is no proper or particular reason that accounts for such cases. Being trapped in the home with no freedom to move around freely has made people suffer more as they are forced to stay with their abusive partners. Disruption of social networks and no contact with family or close ones has left these women with no option but to suffer. Another reason for the increase in the number of such cases could be a loss of income or employment. According to a survey by the National Family Health Survey-4 in 2015-16, it was found that a man feels justified in beating his wife if she neglects the house or family, goes out without informing her partner, doesn’t cook or clean properly, etc. It also points out that 17.1 percent of men believe that it’s their right to get angry at their wives if she refuses to have sexual intercourse with them.
In order to help these women, there are some laws like the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Crime Against Women Cell was established in the year 2010 to provide care and protection to survivors of domestic violence. Many Non-Governmental Organizations are working to provide shelter and psychological support to these affected women. Women’s Commission is also established for the same purpose, which takes immediate action against such persons. Also, there are many 24x7 helplines in places to help the victims.
Despite all these measures, women still aren’t safe in their own houses and suffer such violence every day. Tackling the issue becomes a necessity because it’s a problem prevalent in society and causes harm to the social structure. In a male chauvinist society like India, the problem is even more grave and alarming. With campaigns and slogans to empower women, India strives to achieve greater equality and a better status for women. In the 21st century, we still observe discrimination against one gender, oppression of women by men, greater equality and freedom to males and a lot more! A woman plays a very crucial role in the family, in society, in the country and in the world as a whole. Yet she is considered a second-class individual.
The problem needs to be analyzed and solved at the grass-root level first. There needs to be a change in the attitude and mentality of the population that we’re a part of. A better legal framework and stricter laws should be put in place to provide immediate assistance to women and punishment to the abusers. Counselling services organized by non-governmental and governmental organizations. The education system needs the introduction of subjects about gender equality, social justice, eradication of male dominance and more to provide students with basic knowledge on these matters.
Greater awareness and a united effort by every member of the community is the need of the hour. Even in such times of distress, when the whole world is grappling with COVID-19, violence, abuse and discriminatory practices against women cannot be overlooked. This is the breach of human rights against women being done globally, and hence, requires immediate action!
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