We begin this year with many dreams and aspirations, and most importantly, with lots of hope. The past year was a peculiar one and each one of us can account for a different experience. It was a good year for many of us and a terrible one for the others but nevertheless we all have a common holistic opinion on 2020 and it was quite disturbing. Many people suffered, lives were lost, blood was shed, people had no jobs or food and one particular group of people suffered like never before, domestic violence victims.
In March 2020 our government imposed a lockdown. Schools closed, and many workers were furloughed, laid off, or told to work from home. With personal movement limited and people confined to their homes, advocates expressed concern about a potential increase in domestic violence. Stay-at-home orders, intended to protect the public and prevent widespread infection, left many victims trapped with their abusers.
According to the New York Times, there was every reason to believe that the restrictions imposed to keep the virus from spreading would have such an effect, said Marianne Hester, a Bristol University sociologist who studies abusive relationships. Domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as the Christmas and summer vacations, she said.
In 2020, between March 25 and May 31, 1,477 complaints of domestic violence were made by women. This 68-day period recorded more complaints than those received between March and May in the previous 10 years. During the first four phases of the COVID-19-related lockdown, Indian women filed more domestic violence complaints than recorded in a similar period in the last 10 years. But even this unusual spurt is only the tip of the iceberg as 86% women who experience domestic violence do not seek help in India.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) registered an increase of at least 2.5 times in domestic violence complaints since the nationwide lockdown, according to official data. Nearly 727 of these complaints were received on its WhatsApp helpline (+917217735372 ) set up in April to ensure women, who couldn’t access emails or send complaints by post, could receive help.
India’s Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani, claims these stats to be false and that NGOs were “scaremongering”. Despite the numbers, Ms. Irani dismissed concerns over the rise in incidents of domestic violence. News reports last week said that during a webinar, the Minister had denied there was in increase in incidents. Ms. Irani said there was some “scaremongering done especially with some development partners who are in the NGO sector that 80% of women who are now at homes in India or across the world will be getting beaten up.”
But the statistics that are provided say otherwise, despite the fact that more than half of the cases go unreported we are still dealing with an extremely large number of domestic violence cases. But with officials responsible for providing and ensuring women’s safety denying the need to do it in the first place, we have a lot to worry about.
It is also alleged that getting help during the peak times of the lockdown was extremely difficult for many women. Many cases were only reported with no action taken against the abusers whatsoever, which forced the victims to stay locked in with their abusers for months.
It is believed the lockdown caused many people to lose their jobs and many families, their livelihood. With money a scarce and no food to eat, marital quarrels were on the rise. Fatigue and stress lead to arguments over silly and petty issues, which if escalated, result in violence. When a man fails to provide for his family he is angry and frustrated. Men in our society are often seen venting their anger out on their wife and children. A huge problem we face is that we do not have a stress relieving mechanism in our society, which leads to this.
With talks of a rise in Covid-19 infected cases we never know what might hit us. Our job here is to ensure no such upsurge in domestic violence cases happens again, irrespective of whether we are in lockdown or not.
It is time for us to help one another on humanitarian grounds too. So, if you know someone who is facing domestic violence and is scared to report, help them out, and urge them to speak up. If you know someone around you who doesn’t have proper access to report, please report from their side. Below are the important numbers.
- The NCW said the WhatsApp number — 7217735372
- There are two numbers to provide help to women through psychologists — 9000070839 and 0402760531.
- The domestic abuse national helpline number — 181
- Women police helpline numbers are — 1091 and 1291
Let us wage a war against domestic violence and eliminate it from society and have safer and happier households. The issue of domestic violence has for long been ignored and it is about time that we raise our voices.