We are in a pandemic that forces us to stay at home. However, for a large number of people, there is a shadow pandemic at home too: domestic violence. Let’s look at the stats which led us to take a deep dive in this topic.
- France experienced a 36% increase in the number of cases of domestic violence.
- Australia saw an increase of 75% in Internet searches for support.
- The United Kingdom observed an increase of 25% in the number of calls to the helpline contacts.
- Tunisia is dealing with a steep increase of 5 times of cases after the curfew was implemented.
Domestic Violence Trends in India
India is struggling to deal with domestic violence since cases are doubled after the lockdown was imposed. The Childline India helpline got 3.07 lakh calls in the twelve days between 20th March 2020 and 31st March 2020. 33% of the callers looked for assurance from misuse and savagery against youngsters.
India’s National Commission for Women (NCW) said that they registered a significant number of 587 domestic violence complaints between 23rd March 2020 and 16th April 2020 (25 days). This signifies the surge from 396 complaints received in the previous 25 days’ period between 27th February 2020 and 22nd March 2020.
Modes of Communication for Rescue in Lockdown
The NCW relies on the victims (majorly women) to report the abuse. There are fixed helpline numbers or the post, for communication. However, both the modes of communication have closed since lockdown. The commission then circulated an email address so that the complaints can be reported via social media or through their Online Portal. This move seems ineffective for a country where female constitute for only 33% of the 687 million people that have access to the internet out of the total 1.3 billion people.
We need to keep in mind that this data is still a massive underestimation. Most people tend to contact the police first. In addition, the abuser is always present in the house. Abusive behaviour includes withholding financial or medical assistance. Additionally, in many cases, it is the “men” of the family who control internet usage.
Why are we seeing this increase?
The increased violence is not just a result of the frustration due to physical confinement. The pandemic has brought a worldwide lull with enormous financial disengagement, shut organizations, the phantom of approaching joblessness. Moreover, the lack of access to liquor is a trigger. Evidence from the past portrays that women receive harsher repercussions of a harmful, global phenomenon.
While legislative bodies are battling the pandemic, the issue of domestic violence is neglected. The pandemic of such grievous violence against women remains condoned which is a reason why millions of women are finding themselves metaphorically in a prison with their abusers what can be termed as ‘custodial violence’.
Saying ‘Home is the safest. Stay home, stay safe’ is the global norm. Ironically, however, the same home has become the ‘ground zero’ of abuse, rape, and other physical and non-physical violence for many.
How to Prevent this Upsurge?
Creating awareness is the first step to curb this increase. In addition, creating some ways to indulge the abuser can also help. Repercussions of such acts should be clear to people. Online consultation through a counselor should be more approachable. In addition, we should promote recreational activities. We should also promote Hand Signs that signify practice of domestic violence.
An important step could be ensuring timely response by the concerned bodies by proper implication of laws. For instance, authorities can the Crisis Center and Counselling Center for Women as ‘essential service’. This will result in decline of the various challenges in reaching to the survivor in lockdown.
In Spain and France, women can go to a pharmacy for a “Mask 19. This is a code word that will alert the pharmacist to contact the authorities. Due to increase in domestic violence cases in lockdown, France said it would pay for hotel rooms for victims of domestic violence. It will also pen pop-up counseling centers for the abusers.
UN Women said that “helplines, psychosocial support, and online counseling should be boosted to reach women with no access to phones or Internet.”
Other priorities include a responsive police force and concerned government agencies. Social media posts mocking men helping in housework should be reported. Such these posts are a part of the bigger problem as they act as a trigger. Furthermore, electronic media should raise awareness in regional language advertisements about domestic violence being a crime under the Indian Penal Code. SOS messaging to the police already exists in several cities, but it should be enhanced with geolocation facilities.
COVID-19 is now giving us social and monetary stuns that we are battling to transcend. The viciousness that is rising as a shadow pandemic is a mirror to test our qualities. We are united in our strength, empathy and community.
Edited by: Priyanka Srinivas