Kapil Devnani, a first year student of Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur discusses the issue of domestic violence in the light of the COVID -19.
The main focus of this article is on the rise of the cases of domestic violence in the period of lockdown. Domestic violence is one of the biggest social evil that is ignored by the majority of people in our country, but there is an urgent need to cope up with this problem. It is like one of the pillars on which the progress and development of a nation depend. So, this article provides a decent overview of all the aspects related to the Domestic Violence and also provides some suggestions to curb this rise in the cases of Domestic Violence.
This lockdown to combat the present situation of COVID-19 is a crucial step taken by the Government of India. But as we know, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This lockdown has brought many challenges in front of our nation, one of which is domestic violence. During this period of the lockdown, the cases of domestic violence have been increased rapidly. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has recorded more than twofold rise in the cases of Domestic Violence during this period. The total number of complaints filed for domestic violence in the month of April 2020 was 315, which was highest since last August. The unavailability of alcohol for addicts and the pressure of meeting necessities were the key factors because of which this rise in cases was witnessed.
DIFFERENT FORMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Domestic violence is not only limited to physical abuse, but it also takes various forms in different situations. Some of these forms are:
- Physical abuse – Threatening or physical assault, including choking, hitting,punching and shoving, smashing objects, throwing objects, and assaulting children.
- Sexual abuse – Any unwanted sexual contact, it also includes rape.
- Social abuse – Isolating partner from society (friends and family), controlling the partner’s movements when going out, denying partner access to the telephone.
- Psychological abuse – Verbal and emotional abuse such as humiliation, insults, threats, swearing, harassment, and put-downs.
- Economic abuse – Exerting control over household income by prevention the other person’s access to financial independence.
- Spiritual abuse – Denying religious beliefs or practices to justify other forms of abuse or to force victims into subordinate roles.
LEGAL ASPECT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN INDIA
There is a separate Act that governs the cases related to Domestic Violence in India, and it is known as “The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005“. This Act deals with all the provisions related to Domestic Violence broadly and aims to protect females from the brutality by any of her household man and his relatives.
Apart from this, Section 498-A of IPC also protects the women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband or his relatives. This Section also stipulates a punishment extending to 3 years and fine as may be decided by the court.
ROOT OF THIS PROBLEM
The main hurdle that comes in front of this nation to eliminate this crime is that most of the cases of domestic violence are not even reported because it is very hard for a victim even in the most supportive conditions to report such abuses and this can be proved by taking the stats of National Family Health Survey-III, published in the year 2005. According to this survey, about 37.2 percent of married women faced spousal abuse, but out of this only, 2% approached police stations to sought help. In rural India, this situation is worst because most of the woman in rural India are illiterate and are very much dependent on their husbands who discourage them from filing the complaints. The NGOs which were spreading awareness and acting as a mediator between victim and authorities, making it easier for women to come out of their house and report such abuses are also not able to work because of this lockdown.
LOCKDOWN AND THE CASES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN FOREIGN NATIONS
Apart from India, many other countries are also facing this surge in the cases of Domestic Violence. Katrin Goring-Eckardt (Germany’s parliamentary leader) in her speech mentioned this issue and said that she is concerned for those women who are trapped with violent partners in this lockdown. In the UK, Mandu Reid (leader of women’s Equality Party) has called for the policy or legal changes to reflect the increased risk to women and children in quarantine. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres also appealed to the governments to pay attention to this horrifying global surge in domestic violence which shows that it’s a “Global Problem” and there emerges an urgent need to protect the victims of Domestic Violence globally.
STEPS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT AND ITS RESULT
To combat this problem, the National Commission for Women (NCW) launched a helpline number – 0721-7735372, which enables the victim to report the crime of domestic violence through a message on WhatsApp. The reason behind using WhatsApp was that it is easier for most of the women to connect on WhatsApp in comparison to E-Mail and this can also be proved by the fact that a total of 40 messages were received in the first two days after the launch of this helpline number. But, in our country, a good percentage of women do not possess smartphones and there is also a lack of availability of internet facilities in remote areas which makes this initiative unavailable for most of the women.
The Government must implement far-reaching reforms that are inclusive of all women in the country, whether in an urban or rural area. An immediate step should also be taken to spread awareness about all the aspects of Domestic Violence and awareness about the helpline number should also be spread by using various mass media platforms. The Government can also change the legal policies to cope up with this rise in cases of Domestic Violence and can also take steps which other countries have decided to combat with this problem like, in Spain, the Government has proclaimed that the women will not be fined if they leave their house to report abuse and in France, the Government announced to put victims of domestic violence in hotel rooms and it also announced a fund of EUR 1 million to relief organizations working against domestic abuse, to help them to cater the increased number of victims.
The only place where we are safe in this present epidemic is our home but, we can’t even imagine the condition of those women who are not safe in their homes as well. The Government alone is not responsible for solving this problem, but we as a citizen of this nation also have some moral duty to save those women and help them in getting legal aid. Our society generally ignores this problem and pays no attention to this issue, but this issue is like a slow poison which will affect the development of the nation in a long-run, and because of this there emerges an urgent need to protect the victims of Domestic Violence otherwise, the marks of these domestic violence cases will remain for a longer period.
Kapil Devnani is a first year student of Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur
IMPORTANT – Opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IJOSLCA.