Skip to main content

Domestic violence: NGO sees 'spike' in calls for help after lockdown began to ease

By Anika Bhasker*

Picture this: A 60-year-old woman, with a slightly hunched back, on her umpteenth visit to the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. This is what she has been doing for the last 30 years, since she filed a case against her husband on domestic violence charges. The judiciary has failed to resolve her case all these years but still, she remains hopeful, travelling the distance religiously to be able to get the same response from our judicial system.
A staggering 86% of the women who experienced violence never reported it, while 77% women did not even mention the incident to anyone.
Humsafar, a women’s support system based in Lucknow and founded by Richa Rastogi in 2003, aims to support survivors of gender-based violence. Richa Rastogi believes, these are not “victims” but rather “survivors.” Starting out in 2003 as an informal group, the group was registered as a trust in 2008. The goal was to provide support to women suffering under domestic violence, and provide them with the various options that they could exercise in terms of litigation or mediation.
The purpose of Humsafar was extended to enabling the survivors to seek financial independence. One of the unique ways in which Humsafar does this is by finding an alternative livelihood for women as drivers of e-rickshaws in the Lucknow city and thereby, empowering them.
Presently, Humsafar provides an array of support services to women – legal, medical, mediation, counselling, shelter, livelihood, financial opportunities, along with engaging with different sections of society through workshops and events to raise awareness about domestic violence cases. The institutional backing by Humsafar enables these women to litigate against their abusers.
As Richa Rastogi notes, in many cases, the fear of legal action is established more deeply within the abusive family members with Humsafar’s support, which results in most cases ending in mediation as most family members fear action and would prefer out-of-court settlements or resolution of the matters.

Domestic violence: Societal outlook

Most of the women that seek support from Humsafar are usually lower middle class women, living in older parts of Lucknow such as Alambagh and Dubagga where the mindset is still strongly patriarchal. However, it is worth noting, that the awareness and outreach conducted by Humsafar and several other NGOs has generated more understanding among women about violence.
According to Richa Rastogi, in the early 21st century, during the inception days of Humsafar, the awareness for low and often, women were not sure what constituted as physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse. Over time, this scenario has improved with more women becoming aware of their rights and judicial protections. However, one area that still remains grey for most women is understanding sexual abuse, often manifesting in the form of marital rape, and women have a tendency to hide this issue.
In order to address violence holistically, change in societal mindset is pertinent – the first step to this is awareness. To generate support and awareness, Humsafar works with different communities and with youth in educational institutions. Presently, Humsafar is working in over 53 neighborhoods with women and in 42 schools and colleges in the districts of Lucknow, Unnao, Sitapur and Hardoi.

Stigma of litigation

In numbers, the reality is quite discerning, where only 15% of the women actually go to court, 60% cases are settled through mediation and in case of the remaining 25% cases, women forfeit their complains. The reason for the high number of women opting for mediation is because of the failure of the judicial system. While as per the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 the cases have to be disposed of in 60 days, this is seldom the reality.
Most of the women that seek support from Humsafar are usually lower middle class women, living in older parts of Lucknow
There is also a strong stigma attached to the litigation process, especially for the survivors who have a job. There is tremendous backlash in employment opportunities for such women if they were to file a case, since they have to take leaves for judicial hearings from time to time which acts as a disincentive for small private employers to hire them. Ironically, even if they are successful in getting justice, the maintenance amount is usually nominal, to the tune of INR 500 to INR 2000 per month, which is hardly sufficient to even meet basic life needs.
Richa Rastogi notes, the only way in which the situation can be changed for the better is by delivering speedy justice. A higher conviction rate will automatically induce fear of crime amongst the families, and eventually lead to a mindset change.

Reluctance to file cases

Most women are reluctant to file a case against their husband or families in the first place due to huge financial dependence. They rely on their husband and families for everyday needs and do not have the necessary skillsets or training to be able to work. Humsafar recognized this reluctance and sought to take up the task of training and skilling these women in different professions, so that they can encourage them to take action against the wrongdoers and live with dignity.
In this context, Humsafar trains the women in livelihood skills such as driving and wood polishing. There is a twofold reason for adopting these two professions: (1) for financial independence of women, and (2) to take on jobs primarily performed by men in our society to challenge the misconception. This initiative has helped train and equip over 137 women so far.

Impact of lockdown

The lockdown has adversely impacted the fight against domestic violence, leading to a rise in cases. As research states, domestic violence incidents saw an alarming rise, reaching a 10-year high during the lockdown. While during the lockdown, Humsafar did not receive as many complains since women were in no position to reach out the any support groups or NGOs due to lack of access to a mobile phone or insufficient balance.
There was also a lack of private space from where they could contact or raise the issue with any support centre. It was shocking to know that even in the cases where they were able to reach out to the police, they were dismissed by the officers, who cited the pandemic to be a greater concern than domestic violence cases.
But in the immediate aftermath, Humsafar saw a rise in the calls for help that they received, up from the 1-2 calls they received pre-pandemic to almost double the number at present. The need of the hour is to push for speedy justice and implementation of the existing laws and rules for the protection of women who are survivors of domestic violence abuse.
Richa Rastogi says, Humsafar’s motivation to empower women is further advanced when there are examples of success stories that they can share with the women that come to them for support.
---
*Student  (PGP 2019-21), Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

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".

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

World Bank proved right, Narmada is already a destructive project: Medha Patkar

By Rajiv Shah  Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar has said that the World Bank’s independent review mission, which brought out the Morse Commission report , has been proved right: The Sardar Sarovar dam has not only failed to live up to the loud promises made for irrigating large arid areas of Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat, those who were displaced and resettled in Gujarat are getting increasingly restive as many of them are unable to get the promised water for irrigation and some for drinking water too. While 50,000 families have been resettled in three states and 20,000 have received land rights as land or cash, the authorities have not calculated what should be done with 15,000 families, whose houses are acquired for Sardar Sarovar but following changing backwater levels of the Sardar Sarovar dam, they are denied rehabilitation, Patkar tells Counterview in an interview (part1*): *** Q: What is the latest position in your view as far as the Sardar Sarovar dam is concerned?

UK leader cites Indian farmers' struggle one of top global fights against neoliberal order

Counterview Desk  Jeremy Corbyn, member of the UK Parliament, former leader of the UK Labour Party and founder of the  Peace and Justice Project , in his  inaugural speech to the  Progressive International’s  Summit at the End of the World on May 12, 2022, has said, what is happening across globe suggests that "image of apocalypse -- bombs and raids, oil spills and wildfires, disease and contagion -- is a reality for people across the planet." In an adaptation of his speech, distributed by  Globetrotter , Corbyn, however, said, there are fresh examples action, too -- by Indian farmers forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw three neo-liberal laws;  by workers, communities and activists against the top giant multinational Amazon's "greed and exploitation"; and by Latin American people's struggle to say "no more to the domination by imperialism, the destruction of their communities and the abuse of their environments." Stating that this is n

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.

Why is NIOH-ICMR 'official' making false claims on silicosis?: Health rights NGO

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, Dr Jagdish Parikh, trustee, health rights NGO People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, and Jagdish Patel, director, PTRC, have said that the claim being made for the use of biomarker for detection of silicosis raises concern about scientific tenacity of the diagnosis of the deadly occupational disease. The letter also objects to the reported claim by a top health official that it is possible to detect silicosis at the sub-radiological stage. It asks, “What is this subradiological stage of silicosis? We have not heard any such scientific term being used. Again, the report is using a term which is not found in any scientific literature so far. Is this term acceptable by ICMR? Is ICMR thinking of any explanation?” Text : This is with reference to our letter dated November 28, 2021. In our communication we had raised our concern about the scientific tena

Welfare? Govt of India spends just 19% of manual scavengers' rehabilitation budget

By Bharat Dogra*  While the Dalit community has been always known for higher levels of poverty as well as social discrimination, even within the Dalits there is a sub-section known for even worse levels of poverty as well as social discrimination. This is the section which was traditionally involved in manual scavenging. The shocking injustice they have suffered from over the years has been widely recognized leading to a ban on manual scavenging. At the same time there is urgent need for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging. Hence a self-employment scheme for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging was drawn up. The allocations and the expenditure for this scheme for the last eight years are shown in the Table below: Union Budget for Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of  Manual Scavengers (in Rs crore) By Budget Estimate we mean the original allocation made when the budget is presented. It is clear from this table that the actual expenditure