With the outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe, every human being on the planet Earth has become familiar with the term “coronavirus”. The severity of the disease and the lack of an exclusive antidote demands strict adhering to the medical advisory. Among a series of precautionary measures, one of the most profound strategies is to get yourself locked down to your home. The importance of this preventive measure is of such a magnitude that it has attained the form of a slogan of humanity against the COVID-19. Yes, I am talking about the slogan “Stay Home, Stay Safe” which is trending across all platforms of communication with social media being no exception.
Although the home may be considered as the safest place it is not the same for all, especially for those caught in an abusive relationship. The outbreak of COVID-19 has not only sparked a pandemic but the clampdown it has brought in its wake has also put forth several societal challenges including the surge in domestic violence. Domestic violence involves a pattern of psychological, physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation are also considered as different forms of violence. Although, any human being is vulnerable to different acts of domestic violence, however, children and women are most prone to such abuse. Domestic violence is the mostworse thing a woman can ever experience.
Typically, domestic violence is suffered by a woman from the male members of her family or relatives. Such disgusting acts can severely affect the health of the victim and the severity can range from physical illness to mental disorders: including a high risk of chronic disease, sexual disorders and depression. The worldwide spurt in the cases of domestic violence can be ascertained from the fact that the World Health Organization had to issue advisories to prevent the acts of domestic violence abreast the COVID-19 advisories.
Nevertheless, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has reiterated upon the governments across the world to take effective measures for preventing the acts of domestic violence amid lockdown. As of now, the lockdown has badly affected the world economy as such millions of people have lost their jobs and daily wagers have been pushed to the wall. Such people are more likely to be the offenders as they could project their frustration on their women.
Although lockdown may share many success stories concerning combating COVID-19, it is taking a toll on the victims of domestic violence due to the complete disconnection from social support systems.Usually, a victim would avoid any unfavourable, violent situation by fleeing to a safe place, however, the same is not possible under the prevailing circumstances.
In India, anticipating the surge in abuse, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has already declared the situation alarming and pressed upon the government and the community, in general, for the prevention of domestic violence against women. Amidst lockdown, the menace is showing an abysmal surge which is evident from the fact that around 90% of the cases registered during lockdown are related to various acts of domestic violence. It is pertinent to mention that the NCW has recorded more than twofold rise in the acts of domestic violence.
Such figures rely on the number of cases reported to the NCW, the actual number of cases would be significantly higher as amid lockdown most of the victims would have preferred not to report the abuse for it could result in a spike in torture and a loss of shelter. It is pertinent to mention that even under normal circumstances most of the victims do not turn to seek help from the concerned authorities.
According to the National Family Health Survey (2015-2016), one-third of the women population had experienced different forms of domestic violence but less than one per cent of them had sought help from the police. One of the major factors that prevent a victim from reporting the abuse is the ignorance of the law. Most of the women of this country are usually unaware of the rights granted to them by the Constitution. The Domestic Violence Act in the Constitution of India gives the victim right to shelter, she and her kids can safely stay in their house.
Another hurdle in reporting the domestic abuse, especially during the lockdown, is the inaccessibility of women to the internet. The internet offers mighty facilitation for reporting abuse as the NCW also receives complaints both on its online portal as well as via an e-mail.
As such, women don’t have to dig acres of land to reach their inch and hence, they should not miss any such opportunity to disparage the perpetrators. However, much to our dismay, only one-third of the women population of India has access to the internet and the merits of technology are elusive to the rest.
Under these circumstances, the onus lies on the civilized, technologically sophisticated community to keep an eye open for signs of domestic violence and protect the helpless individuals by both reaching out to the spot as well as convincing the ignorant victims for timely reporting of the abuse.
At the same time, it is a moral obligation of the victim not to turn the blind eye towards the projected torture by blaming her fate. Acceptance of any act of violence can spark a vicious cycle of abuse. The victim should be of firm faith that in any civilized society (and in every religion) any sort of violence is unacceptable and the perpetrator is completely responsible. It is the need of the hour that the government agencies should adopt coercive measures against the perpetrators so that the prevailing clampdown does not add to the worries of the victims. Nevertheless, the authorities at the helm of affairs should widely circulate a series of advertisements that would both warn as well as unfurl the conscience of the offenders.
Coming to our Valley, as of now, the COVID-19 and the clampdown thereon is proving detrimental to the most important section of our society: the womenfolk. The stories of pregnant womenbeing presumed as COVID-19 patients and some deaths due to the indifferent attitude of some medicos are heart-wrenching. Many self-centred medicos are setting up an abject example and thereby defame the entire medical fraternity.
Amid lockdown, the prevailing situation is lamentable asthe menace of domestic violence is swellingin our valley and the cruelty of husbands over their wives adds to the mental agony of the womenfolk. Instead of being custodians, many men of our community are behaving in such a manner as if their women are hostages with them.Recent testimony to this fact came (in a radio programme) when a person was narrating an incident that somebody,known to the narrator, had subjugated his wife to physical violence and then admonished Talaq to her via the so-called “Triple Talaq”.
According to the narrator, the said lady was in the state of pregnancy. After listening to the shameful incident, I felt shattered and a complete change of taste as if someone had dropped a pill of vinegar into my bowl of honey.
Many of such incidents are often unnoticed and the victims have to bear the brunt as nobody could reach out for their help. It is a fact that our society has projected women as domestic entities for whom subjugation to torture is a part of fate. In some cases, some husbands project mighty violence on wivesif the latter shows any sort of disrespect towards the in-laws.Much to the dismay, the same is often glorified over social media (YouTube) via non-sense comedy videos by the fake and pretending artistsof our Valley.
Under the prevailing clampdown, another worrisome situation is that a new commission is yet to be formed after theJ&K Women’s Commission was called-off in the aftermath of the abrogation of the Articles 370 and 35A in August 2019. As such, we are highly obliged to reach out to the victims and extend the best possible help at the earliest. All the religious leaders should keep track of such incidents in their respective vicinities and try to address the menace from the religious perspective. Besides, we should make the best use of social media by spreading massive awareness among common masses to counter the trend of domestic violence in our Valley.