Imagine 30-yr-old married woman locked up 24×7 at home with her abusive partner –What will she do? Where will she go? Whom will she confide to? What will be her state of mind? These are some of the questions that scores of women throughout the country and the world are facing amidst COVID-19. This article will discuss about the spike in cases of domestic violence in India and the world. It will also share experts’ opinion on how to tackle the issue and the key help lines.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has recorded more than twofold mount in gender-based violence in the national Coronavirus lockdown period. The total complaints from women rose from 116 in the first week of March (March 2-8), to 257 in the final week (March 23-April 1). NCW chief Rekha Sharma said that domestic violence cases doubled than what it was before the lockdown. The cases of domestic violence are high in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab.
In 2018, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) already reported that domestic violence against women is the top gender-related crime in the country.
Experts are of the opinion that the major cause for the increase of domestic violence is that the men are at home. We still believe in our stereotypical ideologies – it’s the woman’s job to cook, clean, wash. It’s the man’s job to earn. So even though we seem to have evolved in paying lip service to be ‘liberal’, the reality check is in the livelihood. And this incarceration is tossing up the ‘real’ mindsets of partners.
Further job loss, salary cuts, an uncertain future arising out of the lockdown has everyone on periphery.
Tip of an iceberg
We cannot expect that all women can access the online facility. Most do not have access to online services, or don’t know how to use them. The worst part is, now the police are busy enforcing the lockdown to curb the spread of Coronavirus.
The violence of domestic abuse is worse in the poorer section of the society.
Sociologist Ruby Sain suggests, “The women should take help of free counselling and utilize the online resources for reporting the crime. The victims of physical violence may find it helpful to have a safety net in case the violence escalates. This includes having a neighbour, friend or relative or to speak to someone if they are hesitant to approach the police.”
Sain further added, “I have discussed with medical practitioners that alcoholic or drug addicts would have surge of withdrawal symptoms amidst this lockdown. Thus we fear increase in violence in captivity. But doctors say if they sustain home based balanced diet then they can easily overcome such symptoms. I also suggest the couples to practice home based spiritualism or meditation which can help them to manage the distress well.”
Senior advocate and women’s rights activist Vrinda Grover said that as lockdown would be a long affair, the government must ensure resources to help women in distress, health services to women and abortion should be included as essential services.
Experts in the West prefer to use the term “intimate terrorism” for domestic violence which seems in spiralling in numbers. In Europe, each nation seems to have followed the same dismal trail: First, governments enforce lockdowns without making adequate supplies for domestic abuse victims. About 10 days later, there was surge in distress calls then public uproar. Only then did the governments jostle to improvise resolutions.
Italy first reported.
In Britain, BBC reported, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline saw a 25 percent increase in calls and online requests for help.
In Spain, the emergency number for domestic violence received 18 percent more calls in the first two weeks of lockdown than in the same period a month earlier.
The French police reported a nationwide spike of about 30 percent in domestic violence.
In China, a Beijing-based NGO has seen increase in calls to its help line since early February, when the government locked down cities in Hubei Province.
In Singapore, The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) women’s helpline saw a 33 percent increase in calls relating to family violence in February compared to the same period last year.
World Health Organisation (WHO) director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the nations should include services for addressing domestic violence as an essential service during COVID-19.
UN Women’s suggested women that it is a period for physical distancing with social harmony so they should not disengage from their support base.
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