With the outbreak of COVID-19, it might have impacted daily routines, but the virus has proved to be the worst for those who are facing domestic violence. Several incidents of domestic abuse are on a rise all over the world and it comes as no surprise that India is a part of it as well. While at this juncture, the nation concentrates on mitigating the virus by carrying out strict measures, such as “lockdown” wherein citizens cannot leave the house unless there is an emergency. Of course, such a measure is going to save the lives of people but at the same time, it has adversely affected families and homes, especially women.
One must understand that domestic abuse is not constrained to physical abuse but as per The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA), it now also includes mental, economic, verbal, and sexual abuse as well. Such abuses are not confined to any caste or class because as much as a Dalit woman is going through this abyss so is that well-educated lady from an upper-middle- class family.
We are 2 months in this lockdown and domestic violence reports have just doubled up. The National Commission for Women (NCW) received two times the complaints during the initial lockdown period and thereafter these complaints have been on a surge. NCW reported about 116 complaints were registered during the initial period and by the time the second lockdown was declared, over 260 complaints were already registered. These complaints primarily state that men of the house, not used to staying at home are now confined to strict stay-at-home rules, take out their frustration on their wives, children or any female member of the family. The most common form of frustration is either physical or verbal abuse.
Mrs. Mina Vora’s (name changed), toddler; Ms. Maitri (name changed) is going through a rough time. Since Mr. Vora has been staying at home, he expects Ms. Maitri to be an obedient and perfect kid all the time. Ms. Maitri who is only 3, Mr. Vora hits her almost every day for not listening to him. According to Mrs. Vora, Mr. Vora never used to hit their child and it surprises her that how a man can become if he is confined in his own home and be so frustrated. Mrs. Vora has not registered a complaint because she fears that the situation will get nasty if she reports her husband. Mrs. Vora does not want to deal with family and societal pressures that she might have to go through if she reports her husband.
Refusing to help in domestic duties is another major reason for the abuse. Due to the lockdown, household chores can be tedious if not divided equally between the family members. But it is expected from women of the house to single-handedly manage the load. In case she fails, chances of violence increase. The patriarchal society has led us to believe that men are the bread winners and therefore dominating while the females are supposed to cook, clean, wash, and hence submissive. Not only that but we women are women’s enemies because sometimes the husband is not the only abuser but the members of his family such as mothers, fathers, and sisters are also a part of the abuse.
Even though as a nation we have progressed and claim to be being liberal, it is a hoax. We still live in a male-dominated society. The mindset of the lower and the upper class remains unchanged despite enacting laws. This is because of several factors, but fear & lack of implementation of legal aid are the most common in the current situation. Women tolerate abuse because they strive to maintain a good marriage. They cannot leave the house and are currently forced to live with their abusers due to the lockdown. It is said that men have tended to lose control of themselves because it was recently heard that wife was beaten ruthlessly because the husband lost his job.
The Delhi High Court in a very recent judgment stated that local authorities and NGO’s should effectively implement the PWDVA in order to curb the increase in domestic violence  As a result, NCW released a WhatsApp number to receive complaints but it hasn’t served for a better purpose because the victim might not even have access to landline or mobile. Also, the victim will always fear of being heard while she is registering the complaint. In certain situations, the victim relies on family and friends to register on their behalf. The Pune Zila Parishad has decided to put the men in quarantine if complaints are filed against them. The Women and Child Development department has also released 24*7 helplines in order to tackle every action reported with immediate action. A great initiative by these support centers because it gives the victim some sort of relief but then again, the issue regarding reporting the complaint always remains. Also, how does this help to those women who are living in rural areas? It is simply difficult to get them to reach out to these organizations unless they get some help from their relatives or neighbors.
Virus or no virus, there are several dimensions to domestic violence, but the most common abuses have always been linked to the patriarchal system. Merely enacting laws and guidelines would not help to resolve the issue unless the judicial system breaks the monopoly. Also, this has more to do with changing the ideology of the society. Better education and especially gender- sensitive education are a must today. Also, in rural areas where it is difficult for the judicial system to be prevalent, women’s social- economic groups should be formed to minimize the abuse. It is high time the nation becomes liberal in all forms.
Author Details: Prachi Shah
The views of the author are personal only. (if any)