A New CoVID-19 Crisis: Domestic Violence

Violence against women is a form of discrimination, directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty. Gender-based violence may breach specific provisions of the Convention, regardless of whether those provisions expressly mention violence.

- CEDAW Committee General Recommendation No. 19, Para.6[1]


When the whole world is struggling with the health emergency a new type of emergency has evolved globally i.e. Domestic violence. During this Global Public Health crisis, the world has gone into lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus. Due to this people are forced to compulsorily stay at home. Being confined to home because of coronavirus is difficult for everyone, but it becomes a real nightmare for female victims of gender-based violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, intimate partner violence effects crores of women every year. Children who are not able to attend th school during this crisis are 90% eyewitnesses of intimate partner violence in the home so it is affecting the mental health of the children also. According to World Health Organisation, statistics mention that around 15% to 71% of women experience physical and sexual violence, with the majority between 29% and 62%. According to World Health Organisation, one in every three women across globe experience physical or sexual violence by intimate partner by an perpetrators.[2]. In India, according to National Family Health Survey -III carried out in 29 states during 2005-06 has found that a substantial proportion of married women have been physically abused. This rate was quite higher in Biharwhere 37.2% of women experienced violence after marriage. The point here to note is that 63% of these incidents were reported from urban families rather than from backward villages. Followed by Rajasthan 46.3%, Madhya Pradesh - 45.8%, Manipur- 43.9% ,Uttar Pradesh -42.4% ,Tamil Nadu- 41.9%, West Bengal - 40.3%. According to National Family Health Survey-IV released by Union Health Minister every third women, since the age of 15, has faced domestic violence of various forms in the country. Most of the times perpetrators of this violence have been the husband. The survey also found that 31% of married women have experienced physical and sexual abuse by their spouse. Spousal violence is 27% and emotional violence is 13%. The national wide lockdown has resulted in loss of job, forced isolation and stressed household. According to National Commission for Women, total complaint in the first week of March (2-8) were 116 which has risen to 257 in the final week of March (March-23 April- 1), out of 257,69 complaints were related to domestic abuse according to the latest data release by National Commission for Women . In Delhi, 37 complaints have been made to the National Commission for Women.[3]


What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence can be described as the power misused by one adult in a relationship to control another. It is the establishment of control and fear in a relationship through violence and other ways that may take the form of physical assault, psychological abuse, social abuse or sexual assault. The frequency of the violence can be on and off, occasional or chronic. [4]The term Domestic violence is sometimes called Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), but it encompasses child or elder abuse by any member of household.

Measures Taken By Different Countries

Domestic violence has risen like a monster in the whole world. Addressing this critical issue, French government announced an extra 1 million Euros ($1.1 m) in funding for anti-domestic abuse organisation to help them respond to increase demand for services. Due to lockdown people are staying in their home so there is no social interaction also between them and in this way they are not able to report their matter to their dearer ones who can save them from this apathetic situation. In Spain Canary Islands, the institute for equality launched a campaign called Mascarilla-19 (Mask-19), stressing that escaping abuse is a valid reason to leave your home. In China's Hubei province, an initial epicentre of the outbreak saw domestic violence reports nearly double during the lock down. Inspired by Spain, France started telling victims to go to drug store and discuss their problem with them who will then convey the message to the authorities and in case they are not able to talk openly they can simply ask for Mask-19 to the pharmacist behind the counter. UK’s largest domestic abuse Charity, Refuge, has reported a 700% increase in calls to its helpline in a single day .Other platforms are also being used to create awareness and show solidarity, one such campaign being the Twitter Hashtag #YouAreNotAlone[5].. An uptick has already been seen in China with #AntiDomesticViolence being discussed more than round 3000 times on Chinese social media platform, Sina Weibo during the Pandemic. The National Commission for Women in India has launched a WhatsApp number to report the cases of domestic violence which have seen a rise during the coronavirus lockdown period.National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma said that domestic violence complaint were increasing by the day since nationwide lockdown has been announced so a proper mechanism is required in order to resolve this problems.[6] Before the lockdown was announced, the Uttar Pradesh police put out a front-page advertisement in a newspaper announcing, "Suppress corona, not your voice"[7]. The advertisement included the sketch of a woman's face wearing a face mask. The advertisement asked victims to dial '112' when in case of any complaints. It is not a new helpline for women though. Apart from this helpline, 1090 toll free number is there for the same purpose along with (112) the all-encompassing emergency helpline number to access police, fire brigade, ambulance and other services under the Emergency Response Support System

"It's a ticking bomb in already abusive homes," said Swarna Rajagopalan.


Causes of domestic violence

1. Patriarchal Society

Since ancient time it is believed that man is the head of the family and is considered superior. That women aren’t equal to men, and a man comes with the birth right to dominate women. According to National Health Family survey 42% of the men who were surveyed believe that there is at least one good and valid reason for wife beating.

2. Economic causes

Basically unemployment and use of liquor or drug contributes to the violent behaviour. Due to unemployment they get frustrated and release there irritation on the intimate partner by beating her. This is one of the most important causes of domestic violence occurring in India.

3. Sociological cause

Society contributes a lot in bringing change in the abuser. Abuser learnt violent behaviour from his family, community and from his society. It is seen generally that-

Boys who see violence directed against their mother is more likely to abuse his counterpart. While, in girls those who witness these violence’s at their family are more likely to be victimized by their own husbands.

Conclusion

Almost all the nations are facing a manifold increase in the number of domestic violence cases reported since the shutdown. The lack of vision and poor planning by the government is one of the most relevant factors that contributed to this situation. Maria Holtsberg , humanitarian and disaster risk advisor at United Nation women Asia and Pacific said that “Crisis always exacerbates gender inequality and as a result we see multiple of cases related to domestic abuse against women.”[8] So it is necessary to form some rules and regulation for this Pandemic also.

Finally, the perpetrators of Domestic Violence must be brought to trial and repeated offenders must be dealt with strictly as per the provisions of law.


Footnote [1] https://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/recommendations/recomm.htm [2] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women [3] http://ncw.nic.in/banner/data-gov [4] https://www.government.nl/topics/domestic-violence/what-is-domestic-violence [5] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/12/domestic-violence-surges-seven-hundred-per-cent-uk-coronavirus [6] https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/indias-domestic-abuse-survivors-are-in-lockdown-with-their-monsters-but-the-helplines-are-not-ringing-2563955.html [7] https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/up-police-deserves-all-the-praise-for-domestic-violence-hotline-for-women-at-the-time-of-coronavirus-2544091.html [8] https://m.facebook.com/WomensMajorGroup/posts/2825149267565707


Submitted by,

Rakesh Kumar,

Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.

© 2020 by AmicusX