India under Lockdown: Unlocking Domestic Violence

Home is the safest place for anyone to be with own family in this pandemic situation. Unfortunately it is the worst place for lot of women in the world. Domestic violence has witnessed a tremendous surge during the lockdown period. The modes vary from the physical, sexual, mental to financial abuse or assaults. The victims, most of whom are women, fall prey to chronic diseases, acute depression, trauma and so forth. The attacks are repeated on a regular basis, daily. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the risk of intimate partner violence will increase all around the world as people are encouraged to be in their homes during the lockdown. There are various domestic violence helplines from different organisations in different parts of the world to save the victims.

According to the reports of National Commission for Women (NCW) in India, issues an urgent alert on the increasing number of reported cases. The lockdown stress is intensifying mental frustration if the perpetrators of violence, who vent their anger on women and children. The anxiety of losing jobs, associated insecurities and financial problems are making the abusers more violent. To cope with this trend various hotlines are operating to enable victims to report their cases. The number of cases surprise all because no one realised before that the lockdown would lead to such unleashing of domestic violence.

Coronavirus has affected the Indian economy very badly. Alongside the economic uncertainty these cases are rising steadily. The NCW reports that this year it has received more than 250 cases of domestic violence from 23 March to 16 April which is almost 100% increase from 27 February to 22 March. The NCW apprehends that the reported cases are only a small percentage of the cases occurring. There must be more unreported cases where the victims are in constant vulnerability. The number of domestic violence cases rose from 3,287 to 3,993 during the lockdown.

West Bengal government helpline has received over seventy cases during the lockdown. A woman living in a high profile highrise in Kolkata had to file a FIR in the nearby police station alleging torture and abuse by the husband.  In another incident, the Association of Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) reported that a twenty-six year old woman, Sona Mondol from Malda district, was strangled by her husband. In another case, a wife was killed by her husband for protesting against his extra-marital affair.

616 domestic violence cases have been reported across Tamil Nadu from 25 March to 14 May through helplines. The number is alarming considering the brief period. Telangana women are also facing the brunt of the hike in domestic violence cases. According to Sakhi One Stop Centres, around 89% cases registered in April are of domestic violence. A report from the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) mentions a total of 144 registered cases in Uttarakhand. According to the Punjab State Commission for Women (PSCW), the helpline number is receiving minimum of thirty complaints regarding domestic violence each day since 22 March. There are some interstate cases as well. Thus, the Kerala State Women Commission received a call from Chennai. The caller reported that his sister and her daughter were hiding in the wild forest in Idukki district, Kerala, after being thrown out from home.

Police in Delhi states that over 2,500 women called their emergency helpline numbers. They have received 600 cases of abuse against women, 23 cases of rape assaults and 1612 cases of other kinds of domestic violence within second week of April. There is one case from Uttam Nagar, of a twenty-eight year old young mother, who had undergone mental and physical abuse in front of two toddlers by her spouse and his family. He beat her up severely and told her to leave the house immediately.

Coordinators of various private helpline numbers from across India report that their phones are constantly ringing with distress calls, some of which call for immediate help. Domestic violence is not going to vanish instantly. But what is important is to report these cases to the nearest police station and to make use of both the government and private helplines.