Skip to main content

Domestic violence: Perpetrators emboldened as cops busy with lockdown, NGOs closed

By Manu Shrivastava*
"The lockdown has itself created psychological issues and violence within the family. Women have been burdened with more work; children have been unable to go to schools...One of the critical areas which has come to our notice was rising violence within the family itself," said Supreme Court judge Justice N V Ramana at a webinar conducted on June 4, 2020.
The judge at the apex court was speaking during his keynote speech at the release of 'Handbook of Formats: Ensuring Effective Legal Services’.
As India entered Lockdown 5.0 or Unlock 1.0, as some call it, the event highlighted a critical trend during the lockdown -- an increase in cases of violence with the family, especially against women. Justice Ramana, also executive chairman of National Legal Services Authority, pointed out the effect the pandemic has had on the rights and safety of women in the country.
It was a regular Tuesday evening. As everyone went about their usual chores at a crowded chawl in Mumbai’s Dadar area, 30-year-old Savita More was hurriedly fixing a snack for her alcoholic husband. It was his second peg and, she knew by habit, things could quickly go out of hand if he didn’t get his chakna on time.
She had heard of a deadly 'bimari' that was spreading across the world and wanted to hear India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech due to start within minutes. She served the Gobi Fry to her by-now-livid husband and slinked away quietly to sit on the ground against a wall to watch TV, away from his arm’s reach.
At 8 pm sharp, as all of India heard the PM announce a 21-day nationwide lockdown, following the successful Janata curfew a few days back, a shiver ran down Savita’s spine. The lockdown meant she would be ‘locked in’ with her husband for a long time. And, as her husband bolted off a nearby wine shop to fill in his quota for whisky for the period, tears welled up her eyes as she quickly called her friend to share her woes.
And, Savita is not alone as the nationwide lockdown imposition on March 25, 2020 threatened the lives of millions of women in the country. “I had made peace with my marriage and the abuse that was associated. Now, the mere thought of having my husband and his wayward brother ‘in the house’ for days on end gives me the shivers,” says a visibly-shaken Geetha, a helper at a beauty salon in Chennai.
Her husband, a fruit-seller, has been abusing her physically and sexually since they got married four years ago. “It has become a way of life for me. After dinner and a lengthy bout of drinking, he beats me up and then ‘rapes’ me.” With the continual extensions, she is not sure she will “survive the lockdown”.
On April 20, 2020, when the division bench of the Delhi High Court, in an order, directed the governments at the Centre and Delhi and the Delhi Commission for Women ‘to deliberate measures to curb the increasing instances of domestic violence and protect the victims during the nationwide lockdown’, the signal was clear enough that the nation needs to take stock of a bigger threat hiding in Indian households. And, it’s no coincidence that the cases of domestic violence have witnessed a rise since the imposition of the lockdown, as reported by the National Commission for Women (NCW).
The lockdown has turned into a virtual trap for vulnerable women and most are even scared to complain to the police fearing the harassment will increase. “The men are frustrated sitting at home and are venting it out on the women. Many of these complaints have come from North India,” states NCW Chairperson Rekha Sharma. The number of actual cases is presumed to be higher as the data available only comprises ‘emailed’ complaints. The State Commissions have also reported an increase in the number of cases of domestic abuse.
In the absence of a ‘functioning’ office, the NCW launched an emergency WhatsApp number for women facing domestic violence, an option in addition to the available and operational options of complaining online and through email. With the abuser at home, a victim is unable to make a call, send an email or register a complaint through post.
“The police are basically preoccupied with handling the coronavirus outbreak and relevant government agencies, NGOs handling domestic violence cases are all closed for now leaving a victim nowhere to go at this point. This further emboldens the perpetrator,” says Gauri Reddy, a Hyderabad-based social worker.
Lockdown has turned into a virtual trap for vulnerable women. They are scared to complain to the police fearing harassment will increase
The uncertainty over opening of liquor shops in the country as the restrictions were eased during the second, third and fourth phase of the lockdown only made the situation even worse. Chaotic scenes of men gathering at liquor stores in different parts of the country proved how desperate people had become to buy alcohol.
The confinement of women with an abusive partner or husband or family member has resulted in increased physical and emotional violence against women around the world. China, Italy, Spain, UK, France, USA have all reported increased instances of distressed women calling helplines as the COVID-19 pandemic spread to these nations. On April 6, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a “ceasefire” to address the “horrifying global surge in domestic violence.”
Back home, authorities are trying to find viable options such as phone counselling, hostels, etc. to support the victims. According to a Home Ministry official, the government has even started “fifty-two helplines in different parts of the country to help women facing domestic violence during the lockdown”.
“Fact remains, with all the resources, material and personnel, diverted to tackle the deadly coronavirus pandemic, it’s very difficult for victims of domestic violence to seek help as the systems are reeling under immense pressure to keep up with the outbreak,” says Gauri.
In Rajasthan, a state with poor track record of violence against women, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced that his government is determined to stop domestic violence during the coronavirus lockdown and women facing any kind of atrocities can lodge a complaint on the 1090 helpline. He said, “In the present circumstances, the state government will not neglect its responsibility to take care of women.”
That notwithstanding, Jaipur-based perpetual offender 'Raja Babu' has once again begun to stalk his 'daughter' living in another city who left her dysfunctional family five years ago. This, despite a lengthy history of police complaints, legal notices and more. He is fully aware that the system is busy with the pandemic and the associated lockdown and, under the guise of ‘familial concern’ he continues to harass.
The system is overburdened with the onslaught of the virus – beyond and from within!
---
*Co-convenor, The Woman Survivor. A version of this story was first published in The Woman Survivor

Comments

TRENDING

Top upper caste judges 'biased' towards Dalit colleagues: US Bar Association report

By Rajiv Shah  A high profile report prepared by the influential  American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights , taking note of the fact that “in the 70-year history of the Indian Republic, only six Dalit judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court”, has taken strong exception to what it calls “lack of representation of Dalits” in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Billion vaccine doses? Devil is in details: 70% haven't got 2nd jab; numbers jacked up

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  India has reached the one billion Covid-19 vaccinations milestone. It is indeed a great news and a big salute to the less paid ordinary health-workers in interiors of India for this feat. The government wants all of India's 944 million adults to get vaccinated this year. Around three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and around 30 percent are fully vaccinated, the government says.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Failure of 'trickle down theory' behind India's poor Global Hunger Index rating

By Dr Gian Singh*  On October 14, 2021, two organisations, Concern Worldwide (An Irish aid agency) and WeltHungerHilfe (a German organization that researches the problem of global hunger), jointly published the Global Hunger Index (GHI) for 2021. These organizations have included 116 countries in the world hunger rankings.

Global Hunger Index: Govt of India response pathetic, 'lacks' scientific empirical evidence

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* Come 16 October – and the world once again focused on the most basic need for a person’s survival: food! The first World Food Day was observed in 1994, to mark the launch of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Ever since, the day is marked to highlight the need and importance of food security across the world. The significance is accentuated especially in these difficult times like the C-19 povidandemic. The theme for 2021 is ‘Safe Food Now for a Healthier Tomorrow’, emphasising on the various immediate and long-term benefits of consuming safe and healthy food.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Fresh efforts to subsume Buddhism within Hindu fold 'undermining' Ambedkar

By Aviral Anand*  From Yeola in 1935, when Dr Ambedkar announced that he would not die a Hindu, to Nagpur in 1956 when he converted to Buddhism, is a considerable distance in time. But, there was in him a need to make a public announcement in 1935 about moving away from Hinduism. 

March opposes Sabarmati Ashram renovation: 'Mahatmaji had kept open for access to all'

Counterview Desk A Sevagram to Sabarmati march, which began on October 17 from Wardha (Maharashtra) and will end on October 24 in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), has demanded that the Sabarmati Ashram, the government should not impose "the fashion and glitz of a shallow modernity" at the cost of Rs 1,200 crore, in the name of renovating the Ashram founded by Gandhiji.

Nehru legacy? GDP-centric growth has had 'no positive impact' on people's livelihood

By Dr Kamal Nayan Kabra*  Experience has shown that many counties adopt measures to go in for the growth of their GDP, basically in the existing framework, though also going in for, at the same time, new products and technologies and similar other changes. It is believed that by means of this process enough new job opportunities would emerge to meet the economy’s needs both in terms of numbers as also in terms of the requisite remuneration (wages) as also the supplies of the goods and services to maintain the economy on an even keel.