Rise in Domestic Violence – A Consequence of Covid-19

In this article the author would be focussing on the rise in domestic violence cases with respect to women during the Pandemic.

The whole world has suffered a major crisis and is continuously fighting the Covid-19 crisis. People across the globe are facing huge repercussions due to it; be it political, social, professional, or economical. The governments have taken a lot of precautions to contain the spread of the virus. Many countries, including India, had announced nationwide lockdown as a precautionary measure. India has gone through some rigorous conditions in the past few months.

Though these tough steps taken by the government are understandable and essential for the benefit of people in general, the suffrage of one section of our society has been overlooked. This section has simultaneously suffered from another pandemic, namely Domestic Violence[i]. Due to this, women have been the most affected victims.

This is seen to be a fact not just at a national level but internationally too. On 6 April 2020, the United Nations Secretary called for a ‘ceasefire’ to address the ‘horrifying global surge in domestic violence.’ Since the pandemic, the cases of violence against women are exponentially rising at the global level. The UN reported that Lebanon and Malaysia received a double amount of helpline calls compared to the same month previous year; in China it tripled. In Australia, there was the highest number of google searches for domestic violence help in the past five years.[ii] Similarly, the imposition of lockdown in India led to the same unfortunate consequences.India’s National Commission for Women (NCW) on Friday said it registered 587 domestic violence complaints between March 23 and April 16 – a significant surge from 396 complaints received in the previous 25 days between February 27 and March 22.[iii] This is only the tip of the iceberg as there are a huge number of domestic violence cases going unreported.

Causes of the surge in cases

It is not possible to point out only one reason for the surge in cases as several factors play a role in it. According to Sociologist Marianne Hester, “domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as the Christmas and summer vacations.”[iv] The lockdown laid the perfect circumstances for this and as an unfortunate consequence an increase was seen in the instances of domestic violence.

One of the significant reasons for the increase in cases is that India has always followed a patriarchal system, where women are mostly subdued by men. This gender and role discrimination has placed all the burden of domestic work on women. Domestic Work is generally referred to as “women’s work”. Generally female members look after the household chores and the imposition of lockdown has resulted in an increase in workload for her. Many women were put in the position of single-handedly managing their professional work along with the household chores; thereby overburdening them.[v] Now, in these circumstances, if they cause any inconvenience or fail to do something, they are exposed to violence.

The data provided of domestic violence does not show the real picture of this horrifying act as numerous cases go unreported. This is because many women fail to come forward to seek help and suffer in silence. They are clouded by an orthodox ideology or sometimes are even silenced by their family members in order to maintain the honour of the family. Retrieving help from anyone outside becomes impossible for some women who may not have access to relatives, police or any NGOs via mobile phones as many women do not even have mobile phones. They are left in misery being caged with the abusers.[vi]

According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the overall unemployment rate may have surged to 23 per cent, with urban unemployment standing at nearly 31 per cent, amid the countrywide lockdown due to coronavirus outbreak.[vii] This scenario suggests the vulnerability of people and their helplessness due to loss of livelihood. The frustration of loss of income and to manage the expenditures of family, especially for males, makes them exert violence on their partners. It is worse if the female spouse is unemployed.[viii]

Another important aspect is that after the 40 days of lockdown, the government had opened the liquor shops as a first step towards easing the restrictions. The government had also levied a special corona tax of 70 percent on alcohol in some places amid concerns of lost revenue.[ix] This in turn magnified the already deteriorated conditions as many men increased their alcohol consumption, thereby increasing domestic violence. This not only added to the financial burden but also towards an increase in abuse against women. So many cases were reported where husbands in an intoxicated state had physically assaulted their wives and children.[x] In doing so, the state somewhere prioritized earning revenue rather than safeguarding the women and children.

According to UNICEF 20 million babies will be born in India till the end of this year.[xi] India also noted a surge of porn usage and sale of condoms.[xii] Women might have been exposed to domestic violence in the form of sexual harassment or marital rape – which unfortunately is not a crime in India.[xiii] In the isolated circumstances created by the lockdown, it is easy for the perpetrators to take undue advantage and shatter their domestic life.

Steps taken by the Government

The government has failed to take any major and significant measures, however, there are few things that governments have done. For e.g. Delhi Commission for Women has set up a helpline number (181) to combat violence and trauma during the pandemic that one can reach out to.[xiv] In UP, the state government has initiated a special helpline for victims of domestic abuse under the title `Suppress Corona, not your voice’.[xv] But as mentioned above some women don’t even have access to communicate or seek help. In such a situation they are left without any solution.

In Tamil Nadu, protection officers have been appointed under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. They are given permission to move during the lockdown and some women have been rescued. The chairperson of NCW claimed that ASHA and Anganwadi and other frontline health workers are counselling against domestic violence and women can report to these workers in case they are facing abuse.

No doubt that the governments are trying their best even in these tough times to protect and safeguard the victims, however, the measures taken are not sufficient. The government should conduct campaigns to make citizens aware of domestic violence. It should ask citizens to be sensitive towards the increased damage of domestic violence and encourage them to intervene if they suspect abuse, using tactics such as the banging on the door or ringing the bell. In countries like France and Spain codewords such as ‘mask 19’ are used as an indication when women are being abused.[xvi]

Conclusion

Family is considered as a place where one secures love, solace, safety, and security but for some women, it has become a place of insecurity and violence. Women are being abused and tortured by their very own family and instead of receiving love and respect, they are forced to bear humiliation and violence without uttering a single word. Thus, to establish a safe and secure society for women, a lockdown should be imposed on the orthodox thinking of people. For creating a better and safe environment for women, governments should implement stringent laws and take all precautionary measures. They should also set up new mechanisms to safeguard women as much as possible.


[i] Section 3, The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005, No. 43 of 2005

[ii] UN News, UN chief calls for domestic violence ‘ceasefire’ amid ‘horrifying global surge’, April 6, 2020. Available at: https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061052

[iii] Locked down with abusers: India sees surge in domestic violence, Aljazeera, April 18, 2020.

[iv] COVID-19, Domestic Abuse and Violence: Where Do Indian Women Stand?, EPW Engage, April 17, 2020 Available at: https://www.epw.in/engage/article/covid-19-domestic-abuse-and-violence-where-do

[v] Divya J Shekhar, What the Covid-19 lockdown tells us about the gender gap in house-work, Forbes India, March 30, 2020 05:39:41 PM Available at:

https://www.forbesindia.com/blog/missrepresent-women-gender-sexuality/what-the-covid-19-lockdown-tells-us-about-the-gender-gap-in-house-work/

[vi] Arjun Kumar, Balwant Singh Mehta, Simi Mehta, The link between lockdown, COVID-19, and domestic violence, April 17, 2020

[vii] Coronavirus fallout: Unemployment rate spikes to 23% after lockdown, says CMIE, Business Today, April 7, 2020.

[viii] Schneider D., Harknett K., McLanahan S., Intimate partner violence in the great recession. Demography. 2016;53(2):471–505. Available at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4860387/

[ix] Delhi imposes 70% ‘corona’ tax on alcohol after crowding at shops, The Guardian, May 5, 2020.

[x]  Romita Saluja, India’s resumption of alcohol sales during lockdown is fuelling a rise in domestic violence, SCMP, May 20, 2020, 7:30pm. Available at:

https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/health-environment/article/3085319/indias-resumption-alcohol-sales-during-lockdown

[xi] Coronavirus: Health system overload threatens pregnant women and newborns, UN News, May 7, 2020.

[xii] Sonil Dedhia, Coronavirus outbreak: Condom sales in India go through the roof, Hindustan Times, Mar 24, 2020.

[xiii] Laxmi Garg, Marital Rape During COVID Pandemic Available at: Marital Rape During COVID Pandemic

[xiv]Ayushree Nandan, Is domestic violence the next pandemic in India?, TOI, May 21, 2020.. 

[xv] Panicker Lalita, The Lockdown is making women more vulnerable, The Hindustan Times, April 4, 2020.

[xvi] Ivana Kottasová and Valentina Di Donato, Women are using code words at pharmacies to escape domestic violence during lockdown, CNN, April 6, 2020.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: