Since the country has been in lock down for almost three weeks, there has been a stark rise in domestic violence complaints. These are only the reported cases, so we can imagine that the situation is much worse than we know. Victims are now stuck in their homes with their abusers. They have no chance to seek refuge anywhere else as mobility is restricted. This is a concerning issue which needs more attention in this lock-down.
The lock-down saw an increase in domestic violence rates
The National Commission for Women reported that there has been a rise in the number of distress calls. The Childline India has reached more than 90,000 calls for help. The lock-down implies that these vulnerable groups are at home with their abusers.
Enforcing the lock-down was more important, given the circumstances but the authorities did not foresee the implications of it at home. Indian women do not report cases of abuse for a lot of reasons. This could be for ‘what the society will think’ mentality that forces us to care more about others than us. Or they’re scared about their abusers finding it out. Or they are worried about their children’s future (having no financial security of their own.)
Reasons for increase in domestic violence in lock-down:
Lack of resources
Many women who face domestic violence do not know how to reach out to helplines. There is virtually no support in rural areas. Now that there is a lock-down, everything has shifted to the online mode of working. Without necessary resources like phones, or even the internet, women and children have no means to contact helplines or get help. According to a Harvard Kenndy School research in 2018, India exhibits “some of the world’s highest gender gaps in access to technology.” It means that women usually have no access to mobile phones in rural areas like rural men do.
Women at home also find it extremely difficult to make the call because this quarantine means that their abusers are home all the time. Which then implies that they do not get much time to themselves, given the helicoptering nature of abusers. The lock-down restricts movement, and women can’t seek refuge in their family’s homes or even their friends’.
Lack of Structure
The government is focusing on issues of unemployment and containing this disease. Issues like domestic abuse and violence take a backseat as they are not deemed important enough to focus on. This allows for dominant abusers to do whatever they feel like, without any repercussions. There are many NGOs who are working to help this issue but the governments of the states should do more to tackle and reduce the violence caused at homes.
Moreover, we do not have a proper reporting system so the extent of violence at home is unknown. The numbers that we do have, however are police case files. Even at the police station, many victims are not encouraged to file it or the cases are taken lightly by the officers themselves. Only with a proper structure will we know the true reality of domestic violence and can figure out ways to make it stop.
Lack of Financial Support
Due to the pandemic, many people find themselves without a job. This leads to a rise in frustration and anger levels. Dominant groups can easily take their frustrations out on vulnerable groups. Moreover, many victims of abuse are women who are forced to stay with their husbands for financial security. If they leave, they are left penniless. They cannot afford to take that chance. Victims with children are discouraged to leave for their child’s future.
Abusers always make sure that they have the upperhand in the equation. When women aren’t allowed to work or to study further, it makes them dependent on someone else. In this equation, women depend on men after marriage. And even if women are working, especially in lower class communities, the money goes to the man or the in-laws. This has been happening for a long time.
The United Nations Women says “The evidence is also mounting that the economic impacts of COVID-19 will hit women harder, as more women work in low-paying, insecure and informal jobs. Disruptions, including movement restrictions, are likely to compromise women’s ability to make a living and meet their families’ basic needs, as was seen in the Ebola crisis. ”
Unequal Division of Labor
Since the lock-down has been announced, many homeworkers have been dreading it. Being locked with their abusers and children, (and some even work) means that all the domestic chores are supposed to be done by them. According to study by International Labor Organisation in 2019, gender disparity for household labor is high in countries in Asia. In India, men hardly contribute to household work or children. Women spend 312 minutes on average each day on unpaid care work (in urban areas) while men barely spend half an hour. This is during normal days. However, in this current situation, women claimed that there is more work than usual.
And now, the lockdown is being extended in some states (including Telangana). This means that the rate in domestic violence is bound to increase even further. Many NGOs think that that calls will increase after the lock-down is over. This is because when they’re not surrounded by their abusers, women can make calls or write to them.
If you have the resources to reach out for help, it is imperative that you do.
You can reach out to:
The National Commission for Women (The NCW) have launched a WhatsApp number (7217735372) in addition to the online complaint links and emails which are already operational.
“Fully utilize 181 women helpline and shelter homes, integrate with OSCs for addressing grievance and distress,” the NCW said.
In addition, Women Entrepreneurs For Transformation Foundation launched an initiative called “red dot” under which people can identify a domestic violence victim by seeing a red dot on her palm and inform NGOs or authorities.
You can also contact The Gender Security Project for assistance of Legal aspects of gendered violence
We understand that violence is a huge experience in the lives of gender queer and queer folks. In the next article, we will be addressing the violence queer individuals are facing in this lock-down.
Pause for Perspective