By Ms. Haripriya. B
India has always followed the path of patriarchal society.This age-long tradition has never died due to the circumstances and upbringing of youth in such an environment which glorifies it. Gender inequality is an extensive issue in communities taking forms of violence against women, and particularly domestic violence, which then forms a vicious cycle that always keeps women subordinated; this gender parity needs to be looked after.
In the recent times of the COVID-19 pandemic where economic, social, political, personal, professional positions are at stake and facing huge repercussions. The pandemic has ended up leaving the domestic violence victims helpless and nowhere to go for the enforcement of their rights. The concept of domestic violence is neither a new phenomenon nor its consequences as it is a long-aged menace still existing in our society. The violence perpetrated on women is not only a social issue but also a health, economic, developmental, and educational and above all a human rights issue. It is one of the most pervasive of human rights violations globally. Certain variations in the existence of violence within the communities prove that it is not inevitable and can be rooted out by preventive measures.
2.DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN CURRENT PANDEMIC:
Globally, women worldwide have experienced physical and sexual violence by an intimate partner. As per report by UN Women, even before COVID-19 existed, domestic violence was already one of the greatest human rights violations. In the previous 12 months, 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner.[i]Further, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has registered 587 domestic violence complaints between March 23 and April 16 – a significant surge from 396 complaints received in the previous 25 days between February 27 and March 22.[ii]It is most likely that the number of domestic violence is much more higher than the real figure as one more factor exists which is liable for exaggerating this problem is that the victim locked in with the abusers might not get access to a mobile phone and time to call for help. Most of the avenues which help them to fight these situations are impaired. And to worsen the situation, opening of liquor shops post lock-down, added fuel to the fire.
3.CAUSES OF SURGE IN CASES DURING PANDEMIC:
There is no single factor responsible for the violence perpetrated against women. Several researches have indicated that there is an interconnections of various social, economic and cultural factors which accounts for this worst form of violence. It has a direct link to wage inequality, lower income, poorer education outcomes, and physical and mental health stressors.The unpaid and invisible labour in this sector has been exacerbated exponentially by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this pandemic the work load of women has increased due to all the members being at home. With housekeeping staff being unavailable, the expectation is for women to do all the tasks and that too with full efficiency and productivity. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the national lockdown did not just throw 72 million people out of the labour force but it also drove another 85 million to some kind of desperation to look for jobs in the midst of a national lockdown when none were available. This scenario suggests that people are highly vulnerable to a loss of livelihood. Men are not able to prove themselves at the economic front. They are workless doing absolutely nothing and the burden to make a living for the family with the inability to do it has led to frustration of which then. The increasing financial burden and the needs of the family especially in poor strata of the society are making the situation worse.
With cases of domestic violence swelling every day, the situation is becoming very grim. And it becomes the duty of the executive and the judiciary to implement the laws and take effective measure in cases of non-compliance. Recently, to tackle the situation better the Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi Government to mull over the appointments of protection officers. The National Commission for Women (NCW) also launched WhatsApp helpline numbers to protect them from harassment and in grave cases Crisis Intervention Centre (CIC) through counsellors accompany the aggrieved person and make possible the recourse to public authorities. A laudable initiative by the UP Police has also been launched named as “Suppress Corona, not your voice” which encourages them to be vocal against the crime. The Tamil Nadu Government has also made a fruitful decision on protection officers. Clearly, the steps taken are appreciated but they are not sufficient to handle the emerging statistical numbers in cases of domestic violence.
The effect of the legal framework in India is at stake during COVID. First and foremost, domestic violence leads to abuse of human rights and fundamental rights for example, right to live with dignity[iii]; right to live in healthy environment and in good health[iv]granted by the Indian Constitution is violated. In Francis Coralie Mullin v. The Administration[v], the Supreme Court recognized the right to be free from physical violence.
Section 11 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 states that the Government is obliged to raise awareness in the society by regular publicity of issues through the use of print and media which has not been adhered to. In addition to this, Sections 8 and 9of the Act have not been implemented in its whole as only some of the States are considering doing this. What is even more problematic is the restricted access or recourse to the public authorities. Section 7of the Act which provides for medical facilities is also not acted upon as the list of essential items lacks sanitary napkin which is a necessity.
The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women.
- Swami Vivekananda
There is no doubt in the fact that the judiciary even in these tough times has imparted its services in a very hardworking way by establishing virtual courts and ensured justice to the victims. But still the efficacy of policies and redressal mechanisms needs re-assessment in one way or the other. The Government along with the NGOs can protect the vulnerable section and help them to survive the pandemic by the setting up of emergency warning system so that women could reach out to the authorities without alerting the abusers. The issue of women’s sexual and reproductive health should be taken up as this is the need of the hour.
[i] Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Violence against women and girls: the shadow pandemic, https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/4/statement-ed-phumzile-violence-against-women-during-pandemic [ii]Rukmini, Locked down with abusers: India sees surge in domestic violence, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/locked-abusers-india-domestic-violence-surge-200415092014621.html [iii]INDIA CONST. art. 21. [iv] Ibid.
[v]Francis Coralie Mullin v. Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi, (1981) 1 S.C.C 608 (India).