Author: Lenna Joshy, Student at Government Law College Thrissur, Kerala.
Co-Author: Savio P Xavier, Student at NMIMS, Navi Mumbai.
Shockingly such calls have been a new trend at various non-profit organizations amid this lockdown period in India. At this crucial time when the world was toiling this unprecedented situation named COVID-19, India witnessed a surgical rise in the cases of domestic violence. Violence against women is so deeply embedded in the institutional fabric of the society, that it is now a social problem that prevails in Indian societies. This is a common form of Human rights violation seen in these modern times. After generations of silence, finally, this topic is coming into the limelight due to the popular support of the media and various other factors. But the ultimate truth is that women in India have been oppressed and ill-treated since time immemorial. And by the fear of societal criticism and community remarks, they don’t raise their voice for the same.
The Indian Society which is mostly patriarchal has always treated women as subordinate to men. They were treated as chattel or the property of their husbands. Though many decades have been passed still women’s position, was not changed in some parts of society. Women in India have been ill-treated and oppressed since time immemorial. We have all come across to the stories of Dropti and Devaki of the ancient Indian histories, and then witnessed the darker side of the patriarchal society where women were always a subject of crime. Domestic Violence has been cutting across all the barriers of religion, culture, wealth, class, race, caste, sex, education, etc and is now a global problem. The post scenario of COVID-19 lockdown has precisely highlighted this fact. While the government was ramping up efforts to protect people from the virus by maintaining ‘social distance’, we forgot to think about those individuals for whom a home is a place of fear. With no places to turn to, confined within the four falls, dealing with unemployed and frustrated elderly, the government has not only failed to ensure the safety of the women, and children who have been given specific recognition in the constitution due to this age-old history of violence but also exacerbated the prevailing situation and has left no option to the victims but to suffer.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
There is no universally accepted definition to justify violence against women. ‘Domestic’ refers to our ‘home’ or ‘family’. So the term domestic violence signifies the violence that takes place within the family where the offender and the victim share a close relationship. All acts of physical, sexual, economic and psychological abuse are now included in the broader definition of Domestic violence. Domestic violence the patterned and repeated use of coercive and controlling behavior to limit, direct, and shape a partner’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Any abusive, coercive, violent act or words inflicted by any member of the family on another can constitute domestic violence. It is synonymous with domestic abuse and can be experienced by any individual.
REASONS FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN INDIA DOMESTIC
The main weapon used by most men to establish fear and control in their relationship is through the use of violence. There are many reasons for this unhealthy and violent behavior that is executed. The need to dominate or control the other individual may take the form of physical or mental abuse. This need can be because of various reasons such as unemployment, poverty, jealousy, anger, social stress, cultural or religious practices, some sort of physical disorder or rigid mentality that domestic violence is a part of normal life, etc.
The foremost reason for such type of behavior is due to the consumption of alcohol and other drugs as their consumption causes them to lose their ability to control their mind and display violent behavior.
‘Home’ is considered as the safest place for any individual, but the bitter truth is that women are prone to a greater risk of being assaulted in their homes by their loved ones than by street strangers. Apart from this, gender norms or gender inequality is the most customary reason for domestic violence. Some abusers have acknowledged that they have been victims of abuse themselves while they were being raised. While others have confessed, destructive behavior.
Specifically in times of COVID-19, distancing measures put in place people have no option but to stay indoors. Access to all their networks has been denied, the stress of job loss or other family burden is exacerbating the violent behavior.
INCREASING RISK OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
A statistical analysis states “The nationwide lockdown has fuelled people with frustration, social and financial stress, anxiety and uncertainty of the future, etc which resulted with a steep rise in the cases of domestic violence in India”. ‘Right to live with dignity’ or even the basics ‘Right to life’ has completely vanished. 1 in every 3 women across the globe has come across with either sexual or physical violence at least once in their lifetime either by their own partner or any perpetrator, according to WHO. Another report from NCRB says that every 1.7 minutes a crime against a woman is recorded in India and in every 4.4 minutes a woman is subjected to domestic violence.
The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), 2015-16 highlighted that 30 percent of women in India between the ages of 15-49 have experienced physical violence. The National Commission of Women (NCW) which records complaints of domestic violence against women has recorded a more than two-fold rise in gender-based violence during the initial phases of lockdown.
LAW FOR COMBATING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Part III of the Indian Constitution manifests special provisions that are made for women and children due to the history of violence meted out to them. There are other women-centric provisions in IPC (Section 498-A: cruelty), Section 125 in CrPc and many such provisions in the personal laws to which act as effective redressal mechanisms to women who are victims of abuse or violence. Other than this we also have the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979; the TheViennaAccord of 1994; theUnited Nations committee on CEDAW; etc which gives insights on the international responses to eliminate all forms of violence. Furthermore, to strengthen this position after a lot of discussions finally a first legislative attempt was made in 2005 to define domestic violence against women in broader terms. Indeed, this act is a counterpart of the Sexual Harassment of Women at the workplace, 2013. This act intended to be a giant leap forward to realize the goal of completely eliminating any sort of harassment, cruelty or abuse to women at the household at the hands of a male relation. The preamble of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, envisages its objective and provides effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Indian Constitution for those who are victims of domestic violence. Other than this it aims to strengthen the economic independence of women in society.
The NFS data highlights the fact that the majority of women do not seek help when they are victims of domestic violence, and there are many reasons for the same. Seeking help is not easy as it sounds. They believe in this fact that the person whom they want to complain against is their loved one, and it is only the circumstance which is making them do it and it shall not happen again.But domestic violence like a vicious circle that never stops. Low self-esteem, isolation, family pressure and lack of community support are some reasons why this vicious circle of violence continues. With the failure of the Indian government to assist the victims of violence in this time of crisis, the NGOs have come into the picture and ramping efforts to rescue these women. Usually, the police are not the first port of call for victims of domestic violence, therefore there need to be some alternatives in place. Other than this most of the women will not have privacy to make such calls or text to these helplines or authorities.
Many women are unprivileged and do not have the means like cell phones to even make a call. So ultimately the voice of such women is unheard in society. Activists believe that the data revealed does not highlight the true figure of the women who are victims of such violence. They believe that it could be just a tip of the iceberg, as women from underprivileged communities have no means to reach out. The solution to fight against violence during pandemic Our options are limited; our hands are tied up due to the fear of this virus. But at least we can not give up. To all those who are enduring violence, should not give up! They should raise a voice against it without thinking of the consequences of their act. ‘Acceptance is the first step towards protection’. Once you accept the bitter fact, everything else will fall in place. There Are many non-profit organizations that are working 24*7 for the safety of these women’s
We need to include support services against domestic violence as essential services. With the advent of social media spreading information has not been a challenge. The government should broadcast the helpline number on all the networks. Not only this, but there should be a special task force assigned to help the NCW to track cases of domestic violence. Only such additional support will make a difference day the existing situation. Recently a bench of Chief justice N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar of the Delhi HC had directed the authorities to ensure that all the helplines and Whatsapp numbers through which victims can seek help Aricept functional and to respond to calls or messages received on them. This was done to ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the DV Act post lockdown. Every State and Union Territory needs to take such proactive measures to eradicate violence.
The rights of Women and Children should be treated as an inalienable and indivisible part of human rights. Does India adopt a zero-tolerance policy against domestic violence against women? .During this situation, there can be varying causes for this violence within the four walls. The stability of the justice system lies in its effort to protect freedom and provide justice in all facets of life. Even after having all the laws in place women is India still undergo domestic violence. We need to make an effort to protect freedom and provide justice in all facets of life. Even after having all the laws in place, women is India still undergo domestic violence. We need to make an effort to understand and analyze these causes. There needs to be an end to this socio-legal problem. Currently, there are many NGOs and various other Nonprofit organizations that have been constantly making an effort to reach out to these women and provide them emotional, financial, and mental support. We need to spread awareness through all possible mediums to extend support to the victims. We need to make sure that nobody is deprived of justice. And every victim should raise their voice against violence, regardless of the fact if the offender is a loved one. Because the bitter truth is that he is still a perpetrator of violence.
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