• AM Plus Issue 5

Domestic Violence in India during Lockdown

Ritika Bhat 27th September 2020

One of the most widespread violations of human rights is violence against women. As reported by Zarafshan Shiraz from Hindustan Times, living in confined lockdown restrictions, and several mental health conditions during a global pandemic, India has seen a spike in the cases of domestic violence against women. This is an issue we have been brushing under the carpet for ages. This pandemic has only highlighted symptoms of a larger problem.

Spike in the case of domestic violence amidst the pandemic in India

(Source: Indian Express)

According to The Hindu, “About 86 per cent of women who experienced violence never sought help and 77 per cent of the victims did not even mention the incident(s) to anyone.” One of the reasons to not seek help is because of the prevalence of conventional norms and the fear of facing further abuse from the family if the crime is reported.

Due to the lockdown, working women have lost their jobs and silently go through this trauma for the sole reason of not being financially independent. Indian women are taught to keep their battles private from a young age as sharing can cause damage to their lives. Many women stay silent because they have kept quiet since their childhood.

A report by The Hindu revealed that among 14.3 per cent of victims who sought help, only 7 per cent reached out to the relevant authorities — 90 per cent of the rest sought help from their immediate family. National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) documented that Delhi, Haryana and Uttarakhand were the top three in the domestic violence chart.

The National Commission of Women (NCW) has received 250 complaints about domestic violence between 25th March 2020 and 22nd April 2020 alone. Rekha Sharma, the chairperson of the Commission, stated that the number could have been higher and NCW are trying to follow up on the reported cases.

The underlying issue during this lockdown has been that women could not travel to the government or non-profit shelter homes. Many women could not call the helpline numbers provided by the country to seek legal help because they were surrounded by family. Civic bodies were over-burdened with COVID-19 duties that the few women who did reach out were not the top priority of these organizations. The term ‘lockdown’ itself gives a sense of ‘being trapped’, and thus, the victims remained quiet.

When men are portrayed to be oppressed by their wives — in movies, television series, or a WhatsApp message as a ‘joke’, it is astounding. The reality is quite the opposite. We can also see how ‘abusing’ the opposite gender is shown as masculine. Men need to realize that there is nothing ‘manly’ about being violent with any woman. Schools should teach the meaning of consent at a young age, so children do not grow up to harass other people.

Households should set boundaries, so nobody has to tolerate abuse in any form — disrespect, harassment, or bullying. Empowering women and making them realize that hiding behind standards that society has created will not help.

Domestic violence will always prevail, even when the pandemic ends. All society can hope for is that the government activates strict laws relating to domestic violence. The community should accept, respect, and follow these rules to eradicate the issue of domestic violence.

(Sources: The Hindu, Hindustan Times, Indian Express) Edited by Meghna Venkatesh

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