IF COVID-19 IS PANDEMIC, SHOULD DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BE CALLED ENDEMIC?

By- Diksha Gupta

“If someone would have tied your hands and asked me to return all that pain and suffocations you’ve given to me; I won’t because I know how much that hurts”

Home is the safest place for anyone but it no longer seems like that. Neither it’s safe outside nor inside. The world is fighting a pandemic and another pandemic stands on its head. With a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases, a rapid rise can be seen in domestic violence cases as well.

Simply saying, Domestic Violence is violence or other abuse in a domestic setting such as in a marriage or cohabitation. But when the two words, Domestic Violence come together, the two words themselves strike terror in the lives of people that are affected by them.

When we think of living in a domestic setting, marriage, or cohabitation, we think of a safe environment where we live to have a happy, cheerful life, a place where our family is. But can you think of your safe & happy place turning into a living hell?

It is said that trust is the basis of every relationship, no matter if it is with your parents, husband, in-laws, or relatives. When someone is abused, the trust is broken. It is always just the physical abuse that is considered as Domestic Violence but in reality, domestic violence is a lot more than just physical abuse. Various types of abuse have been categorised as domestic violence under the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act,2005, such as child abuse, senior abuse, honor-based violence such as honor killings, female genital mutilation (‘female circumcision’), forced marriage, & all forms of abuse by an intimate partner or former intimate partner, including psychological abuse and stalking.

Violence may start within an argument or even a fight but goes way beyond fighting. A desire to have control leads to violence. It is one of the methods abusers use to get their way. It’s not always necessary to hurt or harm the child to be considered as child abuse. Children can be hurt simply by seeing parental violence. Parent’s constant criticism no matter what good the child does is also a way to psychologically harm the child. We all are well aware of the fact that there are many non-violent ways in which a child can be punished.

The recent increase in domestic violence cases amid the lockdown is a matter of grave concern. Helpline numbers, email addresses, Whatsapp assistance facilities have been launched by the National Commission of Women to help & assist women suffering from this brutality in the wake of Covid-19 lockdown. Several states have also launched their helpline numbers.  But is this sufficient? In a country, where less than 50% of people have access to the internet, where less than 30% of the population is aware of NCW & its services?

Recently, a 45-year-old cook, Parvathi, in the southern Indian city of Chennai had become victim to physical abuse from her unemployed, alcoholic husband in the early years of her marriage. But this violence reduced recently, because of the salary she brought home every month.

Over the lockdown, her employer inquired her to stay at her place because of the pandemic in the country. Thereby, she was given her wage and one day her husband in awful mood started beating her. She shouted for help and ran on the lanes of her street for help but apart from helping her they asked her to stay indoors.

 Half an hour later, she ran out again, this time working up the courage to walk to the police barricade, and asked to be taken to the police station. “Go home and sort it out,” the officer on duty told her from behind a mask. “The police and courts are shut for 21 days.”

Another incident, of a 35-year-old woman, married to an alcoholic businessman faced domestic abuse. Her husband had a habit of beating her every few days. But with the extension of lockdown, her prison sentence also got extended. One day he got extremely drunk and they engaged in an argument. Frustrated him, tied her up, and started beating her. When she complained about the incident to her in-laws, they asked her to keep quiet and said, “Ye toh Mard hai, tum khud ko strong banao.

Is this what manliness is all about? Is this the same answer you would have given if this incident has ever happened to your daughter?

Violence is not an option; it is a choice people make. Everyone is facing traumas, depressions, anxiety, financial & medical issues along with the deadly virus during lockdown but your violence is never a solution to your frustration & issues. Now that you’re stuck in your home that doesn’t mean you have got a license to show your manliness by beating a woman or using force on her. Only the abuser is responsible for this choice, & nothing a child or an adult victim does cause abuse.

It takes a lot of courage to report crimes against your husband, family, or relatives. That’s why domestic violence is way too ahead in the list of most under-reported crimes.

This is not just one or two incidents. Every state, every city, every town, every village, every street has at least one Parvathi, struggling for her survival, wishing to die from COVID than from the abuse.

Nobody is born to face all this abuse or harassment. Everyone has a right to life & liberty. Even the Constitution of India grants the fundamental right to protection of life & personal liberty under Article 21. The legislators have also enacted the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005. In this time of crisis, district rescue teams have been formed to address the issue of violence against women, 24 x 7 helplines have been implemented. But due to the lockdown, fear of infection, & mobility issues, very few have resorted to the immediate remedy through the courts or shelter homes. 

Several petitions are being marched in the courts of justice in this esteem. Thereby for fetching safeguard measures for domestic-violence victims and to protect children from abuses during the lockdown preventing the spread of coronavirus a plea was brought into by the NGO, All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice (AICHLS) before the court.

The NGO further contended that the incidents of domestic violence & child abuse have not only gripped India but also countries such as Australia, UK, & the USA. The reports suggest that there has a horrifying surge in domestic violence cases since lockdowns.

Domestic Violence is a sin, crime & a serious social problem. Many awareness programmes, counselors are trying to teach people and ignite a sense of humanity in them. The legislators, the judiciary, the state at every level are trying to combat the situation. But the government alone cannot do anything. The cure lies within you.

Maybe COVID is a pandemic you can’t cure right now but domestic violence is one that you can. All it needs is some sense of responsibility, awareness & control!

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