In this article, the author has made an attempt to draw the attention of reader towards the condition of women subjected to domestic violence during the times of pandemic. How they were arrested in their homes along with their abusers which maybe her husband, family relatives, etc. An endeavor has also been made to cover the efforts taken by the government and national women commission to provide the protection to the women being victimized to such violence by their different initiatives.
Keywords: COVID-19, Pandemic, Domestic Violence, Women, Government
In late December 2019, when the whole world was getting ready to welcome the year 2020 and enter into this New Year with new zeal, hopes & expectations, the report of the outbreak of a deadly disease came out from the streets of the Wuhan city of China. Later, it was identified that the causal organism of this new kind of disease is a virus which was named as SARS-CoV-2 and it has since then, gradually taken over almost the entire globe. The doctors believe that it is one of the forms of seven types of Coronaviruses and it usually triggers the upper or lower respiratory tract of an individual.
Doctors and Medical experts all around the globe are making untiring efforts to deal with this global threat both by curing the patients and simultaneously working day-in and day-out to come up with a vaccine for this virus which has already claimed a huge number of lives worldwide and the numbers of which still continue to peak. Along with this, we also witnessed that several steps were taken by various governments all across the world with a view to keep a check on the threat posed to the life of their citizens by the increasing scale and magnitude of this pandemic. This included a multiple of efforts viz., creating awareness amongst the masses regarding this disease or recommending number of precautionary measures, restricting the social gatherings and putting a complete break on various activities for breaking the chain of this virus etc. However, this piece rather than focusing on this issue will be concerned with the rapid increase in the number of some other cases during this period which was not given adequate amount of attention due to the threat of Covid-19.
India was also put under a complete lockdown on 24th of March as a measure to break the chain of novel corona virus. However, in the process of taking all such steps and measures, there were a number of other issues which remained unaddressed. One of such problems is the issue of domestic violence that has persisted in our society since a long time. This paper will thus largely focus on this issue and the exponential rise that has been witnessed in such cases during Covid-19 era.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence is basically a behavior in which one of the spouses wants to dominate the other by the use or show of power. It is also defined as “an act of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence by any family member or intimate partner”. Under the ‘Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act’, it has been defined as “an act of commission or omission or conduct resulting in physical, verbal, emotional, sexual and economic abuse” and this can range from calling names, insulting, humiliating, controlling behavior, physical violence to sexual violence.
Even though, both sexes have been the victim of this domestic abuse, mostly it is the female section of the society which becomes the target of such acts of domestic violence. According to National Crime Record Bureau report, 2018, in India within every 1.7 minutes a crime is recorded against woman and in every 4.4 minutes, a woman becomes the victim of domestic violence in our country.
During the last few months, when more or less everyone was forced to avoid social contact as much as possible and to be locked up in their houses to protect their lives from this pandemic, there were some who were not even finding a life for themselves in their own homes. There are many people who would not have had the room to breathe peacefully as they would have been locked up in their homes with their abusers and struggling with some of the worst traumas of their life with nowhere to go. This mandatory rule to stay at home showed a sudden spark in the number of cases of domestic violence all over the world.
Domestic Violence During The Period Of Pandemic
Many of the women during this lockdown became victim to domestic violence and this time it all seem to have been fuelled by this inescapable rule to stay at home, these unpredictable economic situations and the restlessness within people to go out of their homes or to their work places; all of which turned into the form of frustration for which the household ladies had to pay ultimately.
In this lockdown period, we saw that there were a number of laborers and other people mostly employed in private sector that went unemployed due to the uncertain circumstances, specifically in India. A huge mass is still facing many of its destructive after effects in the form of lost wages, financial crisis, depressions, unnecessary pressures, and marital conflict which involves the danger of taking a violent form after some time.
According to the National Commission of Women, a sudden spurt was noticed in the number of cases related to domestic violence within a few days after lockdown. In those days, some of the the complaints were being received by mail while the bulk of such complaints were coming via the postal method, the reason behind which is pretty evident and understandable; that majority of such women, who had unfortunately been the victim of such violence, would not have had any access to the e-facilities. Such circumstances certainly would have had several health repercussions; both mental and physical for those women who were locked up into their houses with their abusers, forced to think that probably it was their destiny to face all the humiliation, threats, abuse and violence. It is just so difficult to even comprehend that what those ladies would have gone through while they had all their freedom, personal space and also access to different services and connections.
In the U.S., C.E.O of National Domestic Violence Hotline once shared her emotions regarding this while having a session with Refinery 29, where she said that “abuse is about power and control, and an abuser can use any tool to exert just that, including a national health concern such as covid-19”. And it is also a myth that such violence often remains only a part of those relationships which were already abusive since there are many examples of such relationships where violence had never been a part, which turned abusive in these difficult times and one of the partners became victim to such violent behavior. These exponential rise in the number of violence against women have been evident nationwide whenever any natural calamities hit hard the nation.
One of the many criticisms that the Indian Government has invited while proclaiming a sudden lockdown in the whole country, is that it paid no heed to other evils and issues such as ‘domestic violence’. This might occur as a very harsh criticism to the government or to its supporters but it certainly is not if we see it in the light of the fact that this issue has always been put on the sideline by our government. Imposition of the lockdown was undoubtedly a much needed step to prevent the spread of the pandemic within the nation but at the same time, it was also important that the government should have thought something about the problems that would arise in several relationships as a consequence of this decision. But, no measures were taken by the government to tackle the challenges being faced by the women all around due to this pandemic. In spite of taking some measures so that this issue could have been resolved, after 40 days of lockdown, liquor shops were reopened as one of the steps of unlocking the entire nation even though alcohol has proved itself to be a perpetrator of violence in many families.
Causes Of Domestic Violence
There are a number of factors to which violence has been attributed in many households. In many of the families, it is related to work disparity as India being a patriarchal society, the foremost duty of a women is considered to do the household work and during lockdown when every member of a family is in the house logically it becomes a moral duty of every individual to not to shift the burden of the whole family on a particular person. But, this simple demand of help in household work number of times triggers the male ego and as a consequence of this what come out is humiliation, abuse and violence.
Most of the conflicts among families also arise due to the financial instability in their lives. During this lockdown too several people had to face as this pandemic has resulted into the loss of jobs of many people all around the country.
Alcohol acts as another contributing factor in fuelling the frequency and the severity of domestic violence in the families.
In order to prevent the situation from getting out of control, the governments of several countries has restricted or banned the sale of liquor because somewhere deep down they have the idea that quarantined public and consumption of alcohol can become a lethal combination and it might lead to a spike in number of cases in reference with domestic violence.
In Colombia, the sale of alcohol has been restricted to one bottle per buyer; a booze ban has been imposed in South Africa, Sri Lanka and Thailand too. Similarly in Mexico too its sale and production are completely banned.
The South African authorities have claimed that as a result of this ban on alcohol, the rate of number of domestic violence has gone down almost by 70% in comparison to the last year. According to the report of granddaughter of Nelson Mandela the number of calls asking for help has almost been doubled up.
Many petitions by several NGO’S have been filed before the courts to provide directions and to take some stringent actions suitable to deal with this issue and also to provide protection to women and children who have been victimized. Delhi High Court recently directed the state government in pursuance of one such petition, to take deliberate action and to ensure effective implementation. The petition was later disposed of after the status report was filed by the state government before the Court.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court by taking a suo-moto cognizance regarding this matter gave some directions for the creation of special funds for such victims and designating informal spaces in grocery stores for ladies where such cases can be reported without alerting the perpetrator.
In the State of Uttar Pradesh, the authorities have come up with a special helpline as an enhanced response for providing help to the victims of domestic abuse. A campaign named “Suppress Corona not your voice” has been launched, the logo of which shows a women wearing a mask, trying to convey that the use of mask is to break the chain of this novel corona virus and not to suppress the voice of the ladies who have suffered this violence.
With reference to the concerned issue, a web conference was conducted by the Minister for Women and Child Development along with 1000 participants from different institutions linked to her ministry to conduct a healthy discussion over the issue of women’s safety. In this conference, all the staff was urged to take the necessary steps to encourage the reporting of domestic violence incidents against women with the help of digital governance.
As per the data provided by NCW INDIA, in early April 2020, a 100 % increase in the number of complaints related to domestic violence was observed. After witnessing this huge spike in the number of domestic violence cases, the National Commission of Women came up with an initiative in the form of a whatsapp helpline number. This step has been taken by considering the fact that for most of the women in India, it would be a difficult task to write about their problem via email service and their task can be eased to a certain extent if they could just ask for help by sending a text through the social networking app; whatsapp. Therefore now, a woman being subjected to any form of domestic violence can register her problem by just sending a simple text to the helpline number and the help would be rendered to her accordingly. After receiving the text, the legal cell of the Commission will contact the victim and will seek all the necessary details after which a local police team or any counselor of any local NGO will render the medical facilities and other necessary help rto such complainant.
It’s very essential that we understand the fact that “Domestic violence” is a very big problem which has been plaguing our society since a long time and for which there is no vaccine because it is something which is borne out of the sickening mentality of the people One of the biggest proof of this already existing pandemic not only in India but all over the globe, comes through a recent report of BBC according to which a hash tag #AntiDomesticViolenceDuringEpidemic has been searched more than about 3000 times from platform of Chinese social media which itself shows that a large fraction of the society is suffering because of domestic violence.
Several preventive steps are being taken everywhere in the world to ensure women safety like in Europe where accessing internet as well as the phone services has been reduced but still the cases of domestic violence are being reported continuously in France.
In Spain and France whenever a lady will go out and ask for “Mask 19” by a pharmacist it will be considered that she being subjected to such violence in her home and pharmacist over there has been trained in such a manner that they will contact the authorities immediately so that appropriate help could be rendered to the victim. The word “mask19” is being used as a code word there to alert others about your condition without risking your lives.
U.N. CHIEF Antonio Guterres has called for a global ceasefire because of the terrific global surge in violence directing towards women during this lockdown.
While investigating the gaps between the causative factors running behind this increase in number of cases of violence and the responsibility of state, I came upon some rather astonishing facts while going through the data of National Family Health Survey which reveals some pathetic facts related to the crime of domestic violence. One among those facts was that the domestic violence is not even considered as a serious crime by many. Around 42% of men and 52% women themselves believe that men are justified in inflicting such form of violence over the ladies of their families.
At the end of this article, I would like to propose the following recommendations which could turn out to be really handy in dealing with domestic violence in our country:
- Awareness about the law of the land and the rights made available for the protection of an individual should be known to all so that whenever there is a need; people can make a complete use of those rights without even hesitating for a moment.
- All the states should come up with certain preventive measures against domestic violence so that at least a ray of hope exists within the mind of the victims.
- Government should try to come out with some easy ways for the victim to report such an incident or to convey her issues as have been done in Spain and France.
- Online counseling modes and technology should be boosted.
- A regular check and balance should be kept upon the number of complaints being positively responded by the online sources. The significance of digital reporting has also greatly increased in this era of Covid-19 pandemic.
- Moreover, any sort of delay while dealing with such complaints should not be tolerated.
- Government should also try to take up certain priority measures in order to help such victims.
 The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act; Govt. of India, 2005. Retrieved on 19 July 2020, Available at; http://chdslsa.gov.in/right_menu/act/pdf/domviolence.pdf
 Available at: https://medium.com/@rheamoutafis/the-shocking-correlation-between-quarantine-and-domestic-violence-b40425eff605, Moutafis R. 2020. The Shocking Correlation Between Quarantine and Domestic Violence. Retrieved July 19, 2020, from Medium Women.
 https://scroll.in/article/961208/covid-19-lockdown-will-indias-move-to-ease-alcohol-restrictions-fuel-domestic-abuse,Updated on 31st of July on Scroll.in titled as Covid-19 lockdown: will India’s move to ease alcohol restrictions fuel domestic violence.
 Available at; https://www.ideasforindia.in/topics/social-identity/covid-19-lockdown-and-domestic-abuse.html, Covid-19 lockdown and domestic abuse by Nalini Gulati, ideas for India, updated on 19 April 2020.
 Available at; http://southasiajournal.net/covid-19-indias-response-to-domestic-violence-needs-rethinking/, Covid-19, India’s response to domestic violence needs rethinking, updated on May14, 2020 by Shalu Nigam in South Asia Journal.
About Author –
Pallavi Gupta – Student (LL. M) Final Year at Aligarh Muslim University, UP