How lock-down led to increase in domestic violence in India?

Indian society, an epitome of patriarchy, has often given men the power to abuse women in order to gratify their own tendencies of being violent and the lockdown has further enhanced their potential. With a reported increase of 21% in domestic violence cases in India in the lockdown period, it is indeed a reflection of the prevalence of gender roles and power dynamics. Following the implementation of the lockdown in March 25, 2020, the National Commission of Women (NCW) has received more than 220 complaints, which also shows a 100% spike in domestic abuse instances during this time. Also, the All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties, and Social Justice in the Delhi High Court recently stated in a news article that helplines all over the country received more than 92,000 calls about domestic violence and abuse just within the first 11 days of the lockdown.

Challenges in Reporting Domestic Violence

Many claim that social distancing is an act of privilege as people get to reside in their homes. It did not seem to be applicable to Indian women who got through this and battled in a war zone.

Due to their violent spouses’ refusal to accept responsibility for their actions, these ladies had to leave their houses since it was impossible to find solace inside the confines of their own four walls. The mention of shattered arms, damaged legs, broken wrists, etc. in the news made evident the physical injury these women had endured. Furthermore, it is critical to understand that many incidents remained unreported and unheard, which meant that the statistics reports did not correctly reflect the real number of occurrences that happened countrywide. A lot of women fear further clashes and unrest in their households if their husbands do get to know about the filed complaint against them, which creates a lot of ruckus leading to a more tormenting environment. Women’s helpline services are available, but some of them only offer paid services.

This creates another backlash as women belonging to lower-income groups and those working in unorganized sectors either do not have mobiles or sufficient money to recharge talk balance.  Observers have noticed that particular segments of society, such as the literate, upper-class people who had access to money and the capacity to handle any potential reaction, were the main sources of the reported incidents to the police. Due to the digital divide, the gap caused by a lack of accessibility and availability of infrastructures such as telephonic communication and the internet has hampered the reporting of cases by rural women.

Economic Distress and Increased Abuse

One might consider several viewpoints to comprehend how the Indian mentality and its societal roots profoundly embed this behavior that encourages abuse while considering why the number of incidents has increased. Aggression, frustration, dissatisfaction with their partners’ work, viewing it as a source of entertainment, accepting a submissive attitude, and withdrawal symptoms are a few factors that contribute to the rising incidence of domestic violence.

When everything was at a standstill, people lost their job which heightened the economic distress in households. Women must rely on their spouses because males want them to be submissive, which increases the likelihood of violence. Due to the typical gender roles set by society, the time spent by women in the kitchen increased in order to cook for all the members in the house.

The persistent idea that women should be in charge of cooking, cleaning, and maintaining everyone in the family’s health led to issues including a shortage of free time. The government of Malaysia started a new campaign called “Household Happiness” where they outlined rules for women to act as devout wives and wear cosmetics while performing the housework. In order to encourage childlike characteristics and passively accept whatever their partners ask of them, the article advised women to assume the avatar of the Japanese cartoon character “Doraemon,” which they should do without feeling frustrated. Although these posters were taken down after a lot of criticism, this is a reality of the stereotypes across the globe which has made this pandemic gendered.

Gendered Division of Household Chores

The Chief Minister of Orissa recently urged people to refrain from overtaxing women with household duties. While on the surface this may seem progressive, it goes against the idea that men must take the initiative and encourage women in order to avoid pressuring them with their existing jobs. With women confined to kitchens to fulfill the demands of the family members, the role of men as drinking, binge-watching television, demanding for good meals, and being frustrated over withdrawal symptoms due to closure of wine and beer shops also became acceptable and justified. It seemed like another rationalized parameter in the already divided society which allowed men to impose their supremacy by lack of participation in engaging in household errands, while women were expected to bear the brunt of it.

Kerala State Women Commission member reported a case in which the victim’s brother informed that his sister and her daughter had been hiding in a forest in Idukki district in Kerala after her husband debarred her from coming back home. After conducting an investigation, the Kerala police detained the spouse for his despicable behaviour. It was observed that even though certain cases can be resolved through counseling and mediators amidst the lockdown, but a lot of cases would require serious intervention and court trials to be settled. Authorities have given release to convicts across the nation as a result of overcrowded jails during the COVID-19 outbreak, when social isolation is essential.

Impact of Alcohol Abuse on Domestic Violence

This suggests that many violent offenders who were serving terms of more than 7 years in prison for their crimes have been freed and allowed to wander the streets, where their abusive tendencies would likely reappear in their homes. Sona Mondol’s husband of five years killed her by strangling her in the Malda area of West Bengal.

In another incident in the district, another woman was allegedly murdered by her husband for objecting to his extramarital affair. Authorities arrested both guys, but it is impossible to overlook how the lockdown has upset these ladies, their kids, and other family members due to poor media coverage. Even when the booze stores reopened, there were frequent reports of inebriated husbands brutally attacking wives. A 39-year-old Delhi resident dialed the police’s emergency helpline number to report how he had slapped her son after alcohol consumption, broken fan, lights and furniture. All the anger management issues that result in a fit of rage after drinking made women feel more insecure about their spaces at home and also requested to close down the liquor shops once again because of the consequences it had on them.

Stating the facts, the UN agency, Sexual and Reproductive health (UNFPA) estimated that there would be a surge of 31 million more cases of domestic violence worldwide if lockdown across the globe continued for another six months. This would result in mental illnesses like depression, sexual disorders, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and substance abuse at peak for those who are suffering.

Breaking Barriers and Empowering Women

Overall, it is clear that the government must take the lead in distributing services and offering assistance to women who are going through this predicament. They ought to be more engaged, compassionate, and worried about the hard reality, and they ought to understand that helping the victims is a crucial service that must be provided. Authorities in France and Spain are educating pharmacists to recognise victims of abuse by using code terms like “mask 19” for women who are unable to speak out loud and need assistance. India can also use similar measures to offer protection to women who are unable to contact the police directly.

Most of the time, women feel unsafe to report the cases because of the further backlash of abuse by their in-laws, orthodox members of the society, and being labeled as ‘deviant’ from the ideal societal norms.  In order to create a space for themselves to be recognized, they are willing to continue being a subject of such treatment. Despite the fact that it might be more straightforward to say than do, we must aggressively remove these obstacles if we want to advance women. It is important to imbibe confidence and instill self-respect in them to eventually empower them to take a stand, report the abusers and not worry about how the outcome is going to damage the reputation society builds for them.

Global Need to Address Domestic Violence

If they make someone live with them, a belligerent or manipulative person might abuse them physically and emotionally. The victim’s well-being may suffer significantly as a result of this abusive behaviour. They may also experience various demoralising and controlling behaviours that force them to operate in a poisonous home environment.

Globally, we must take quick action to address the problems of separating victims from their family and friends, keeping tabs on their whereabouts, limiting their access to resources, and denying them access to medical treatment, education, or career possibilities. The well-being of society depends on this. The Delhi government also issued the court on April 12, to create a protocol to tackle cases of domestic violence during the lockdown.

When a survivor calls the hotline (181), the helpline records her complaint and sends it on to a counsellor, who will make phone contact with the survivor despite the lockdown. If required, the counsellor may hold sessions with the lady, her spouse, or the entire family to address the issue. However, in case the woman is a victim of sexual or physical assault with worsening conditions, it is essential to inform the police about the case, and file a First Information Report (FIR).

Nationwide Awareness Campaigns for Domestic Violence

In the same way that they prepare for unanticipated catastrophes like COVID-19, governments should prioritize combating domestic violence. In India, the government has partially overlooked the need to integrate domestic violence and long-lasting mental health repercussions. A vigorous national effort should aggressively raise public awareness of domestic abuse and clarify the numerous channels for reporting incidents. To spread the word about domestic abuse, news organisations, radio stations, and social media platforms can actively employ strategic techniques, like the government’s use of programmes that advise physical separation and hand washing to combat COVID-19.

To end the systematic exploitation of women that has persisted throughout history, it is crucial to recognise such situations and help them with appropriate legal and administrative actions. It’s critical to see the value of actively fostering an inclusive culture that supports the development of women, rejects toxic masculinity, and forges a bright future for young people to aspire to.

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