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Domestic Violence during the COVID-19 Lockdown

Posted by Dr. Dhaarna Bhardwaj
Published on : 2020-01-01

Sudha Saxena could not understand for many years what wrong had she done, why was she beaten black and blue every now and then by her husband, whom she loved? Why no one from his family or friends thought this was wrong? Why despite of getting this treatment she suffered in silence when she could have simply walked way?

She tried to find answer by self-help books on relationships, went to religious gurus and fortune-tellers but found no satisfactory answer. Once she even tried to attempt suicide but survived and she finally came in for a therapy session. Initially it was even difficult for her to admit that she was being abused and even felt that it was her fault.

Vimla, my maid, one day started bitterly crying when I asked why she did not come to work in the evening, what she narrated sent chills in my spine, her husband had been ever suspicious and controlling and when drunk would beat her with belt, sticks and even bricks. When at home would not allow her to work, talk to others and even forbade contraceptives. She had nowhere to go with her 5 children.

Manya Rathore, a housewife from Noida, recently underwent an ear surgery after her husband hit her during a fight. She went back to her hometown Jaipur and decided to file domestic violence complaint. Manya lodged an FIR at the nearest Mahila Thana (Women’s Police Station), which is mandated to register cases related to crimes against women irrespective of where it took place. Across India, almost one in three (33.3%) married women, aged 15-49 years, experienced physical, emotional or sexual spousal violence according to National Family Health Survey (2015-16). In the majority of cases the abuser is her own family member or someone known to her (United Nations Development Fund for Women). Domestic violence remains the biggest single cause for death in women worldwide. Women who are abused, shamed and feel powerless often resort to suicide to shift the burden of humiliation to their oppressors.

Abuse is a pattern of behaviours in order to gain and maintain power and control over their partners. Abuse can be physical such as hitting, slapping, punching and/or emotional abuse or neglect and it also includes sexual abuse like rape, molestation or incest. Often abuse in relationships goes unnoticed because women are socialized to remain silent about violence within the family. They are groomed not to speak, seek support or get relief from the outer world. The major impact of this culture of silence is depression. “Thoda bardasht karna sikhna chahiye auraton ko” dialog from movie Thappad seems too familiar. It is always the woman who sacrifices her dreams, her passion, her career and sometimes her self-respect too.

Why women stay in abusive relationships?

  • Fear to leave the relationship.
  • Belief that abuse is normal.
  • Belief that it may be her fault.
  • Repeated abuse lead to low confidence and inability to take any step.
  • Love and hope for change.
  • So that children may not suffer.
  • Afraid of bringing shame to the family.
  • Due to financial dependence.

Violence against women is an age-old practice. Draupadi in Indian epic Mahabharata had to succumb to the humiliation by getting disrobed in the King Dhritrashtra’s court. Since ages society considers the women as a property to be usurped and used as per wish. Maltreatment, torture, suppression, beating and humiliation of women occurs worldwide

The home is often a dangerous place for women (Pankhurst, 2008), and violence is not just confined to the battlefield, and that “for many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes” as quoted by UN chief Antonio Guterres.

We are in the lockdown to protect against COVID-19 pandemic but another pandemic that endangers the wellbeing of women confined at homes is Domestic violence. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has seen 50% spike in registered domestic violence complaints between March 23 and April 16. Amidst the lockdown around the world, there has been a flood of reports of a surge in domestic violence cases.

Though the lockdown is going to end for sure but unfortunately violence against women will not. Sad situation is that in these lockdown times – women who are already suffering abuse are being attacked by their partners more often.

Quarantines limit freedom of movement and reaching out to friends, family or supportive people making women more vulnerable. Several reports associate pandemics (Ebola, SARS, Swine Flu etc) with increased exposure of women and children to their potential perpetrators.

We need to actively take various measures to safeguard victims of domestic violence and child abuse during lockdown period as a nation.

How can you seek help?

  • Approach National Commission for Women (NCW) Whatsapp number – 7217735372 - to register complaint.
  • Take stand against abuse and re-initiate Breakthrough’s “Bell BajaoCampaign
  • CEHAT is running a 24x7 helpline – 9029073154 - for support and assistance.
  • NGO Maitrai works for violence against women especially in uniformed forces.
  • AWARE’s Women’s Helpline -1800 777 5555, Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm.
  • Violence Specialist Centres such as PAVE.
  • Mahila Thana completely run by women staff, can be approached. According to data, there are over 500 police stations for women in India.
  • We at Pratiiti are always there to support you.
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