Jun 4, 2020

Domestic violence is ill-treatment that happens between a married couple or maybe against any household member like children or elders. Our Indian Constitution provides equality for all, along with the right to life and personal liberty. Despite having these laws, women in our country are maltreated, thus depriving them of their fundamental rights. Domestic violence occurs in the homes, behind closed doors where women are harmed or beaten or, in some cases, killed because most of the men think that they are emotionally and physically weaker than them.  To prevent this and to protect the women, ‘The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005’ was passed by the parliament. According to this act, an aggrieved woman can file a complaint.  It is one of the most critical laws made because it helps in the protection of a woman from the violence she faces in the place she lives in. It not only extends to physical ill-treatment but also extends to mental abuse as well.

Lockdown, on the one hand, has ensured safety for all of us, but on the other hand, it has worsened the living conditions for some of the families. According to data, there has been a steep increase in domestic violence cases in India. According to the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), the lockdown has led to a rapid rise in cases of domestic violence with the highest number of cases in Uttarakhand and Haryana. The National Commission for Women (NCW) also has raised worries about the same.  Even, West Bengal has witnessed a rise in these cases and the Women Commission is receiving the complaints via email or other electronic mode. It is to be noted that not all women have access to this medium as in India, number of women using a phone is deficient as compared to men. Therefore, it can be implied that there might be women or victims who are unable to report. Till now, there has been no comment or an order from the Government in this matter, but there have been helpline and emergency who help the victims. Last month, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir ordered to create a fund for this issue specifically. Keeping in mind the situation where women cannot go to the police to complain, individual grocery shops and pharmacies were designated to take the complaints. Furthermore, it also ordered to spread more awareness regarding this. This upcoming issue has also concerned the United Nations Secretary-General, who has appealed to nations to pay closer attention to domestic violence during the lockdown.

The causes of violence may be due to gender disparity or mental conditions or even family issues. Patriarchy has been one of the primary reasons for the violence. Now, since people stay under one roof the entire day, women or children suffer even more. Mostly, it happens because of the deterioration of health, whether mentally or physically. It generally occurs because of the consumption of alcohol. Women are getting locked up with their abusive and alcoholic partners who beat them brutally. On the other hand, lockdown is not a normal situation, and it can further give rise to anxiety, stress, discomfort, frustration. Rising in unemployment, staying home for hours, and additional financial burdens add to mental and physical abuse. These emotions generate anger, criticizing, blaming, or sometimes harsh languages that contribute towards the definition of domestic violence. Other causes can be that while the law enforcement forces are busy dealing with the pandemic, so many abusers are taking advantage of such a situation as they know that police cannot take any action right now.

Since there is no notification or order concerning this issue, in particular, there are specific steps we can expect from the Government. Though the NCW has issued a helpline number for this matter, all these helpline numbers shall be declared as an essential service so that it remains open all the time. Also, media and news channels can further spread awareness regarding this matter and sensitize this issue. Since the Courts are not accessible, the culprits still shall be punished according to the provisions of law. Also, for the rural areas and remote places where it is not possible to expect a victim to have any access to any electronic medium through which she can file a complaint, therefore, to curb this problem, there shall be committees made who deal with this subject specifically.  It is to be noted that this rapidly increasing domestic violence is happening in India but is taking place across the globe, and women in abusive relationships are suffering a lot. But still, various organizations are dealing with this global issue.

Even if we assume that our country fights with this pandemic very soon, it will be considered a success when it overcomes other problems. The responsibility of the Government does not only extend to the COVID but also look after other matters. It shall save us from a virus without exposing any of its citizens to any other danger.