The Unprepared Lockdown Aggravated Domestic Violence Against Women?
The draconian lockdown imposed by the government has led to a rise in violence against women in india.
The Corona pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have wreaked havoc on particular sections of the society like women and minorities. The restriction of people to their homes has given rise to an unprecedented level of domestic violence against women and girls in the age group of 15 to 49. Women and girls between these ages are more vulnerable to physical abuse, rape, molestation, eve-teasing and mental harassment. It is found that there has been a stark reduction in the reporting of all forms of violence against women and girls during the lockdown. The violence against women is detrimental and has strong negative repercussions on the socio-economic condition of the people and adversely impacts society due to increased medical costs, disability and loss of livelihood. It not only disproportionately imposed an economic cost but also health, psychological, and emotional cost as well. There must be seriousness among the government apparatus to uphold and implement the constitutional mandate to ensure the protection of equal rights by keeping violence, atrocities, and discrimination of any kind women and girls at bay.
Reports on domestic violence by local daily Sambad highlighted that around 2000 FIR copies were submitted to the local police station at the end of April 2020. Even the chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW) drew attention to the steep increase in violence against women during the nationwide lockdown in India. The rise in such violence will affect their health, economic stability, families as well as communities. A violent environment within and outside the home always discourages women from participating in the social, economic, and political life of their communities. According to the United Nations, SDG-5, violence against women undermines the fundamental necessities for the achievement of sustainable development goals.
The phase-wise lockdown has also created uncertainties in the job market, especially in the informal sector where women were mostly engaged in low paid jobs like garbage collectors, hawkers, street vendors, selling lottery tickets, and domestic workers. The participation of women in these activities has been seen as the only source of income for their livelihood and support to the family. The small-time traders, domestic workers, and street vendors have lost their jobs due to the lockdown. The prolonged lockdown and loss of jobs has systematically trapped the women into psychological distress, as a result of which there are rising incidents of altercations between the husband and wife. Such an atmosphere of tiff and argument generally ends up with physical abuse, beating, and emotional torture.
It has also been witnessed that earning members of the family (who are mostly male) engaged in the informal sector like rickshaw pullers, construction workers, and casual daily wage workers in the rural areas as well as urban areas lost their source of income due to the lockdown. Even the self-employed persons like electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and mechanics were among the worst affected due to the draconian lockdown with no jobs, no incomes, and no food. The daily income of these people has gone down. The helpless and hapless migrants were forced to return to their villages which increased the number of unemployed men without any alternative job opportunities. The casual daily workers, construction workers, rickshaw pullers and drivers are morely likely to have drinking habits due to the engagement heavy work and believe that drinking of alcohol heals body pain and gives relaxation. Because of the lockdown, money for alcohol has been sparse. This also led to rise in domestic violence.
Such domestic violence is not limited to the only informal sector but has been widely seen in highly secure jobs like white and blue colour. The government directed the employees to work from home during the lockdown. This has led to rise in pregnancies across India, and unwanted pregnancies also precipitate violence against wives. During the lockdown, the burden of household work was largely on women: from collecting firewood to cleaning clothes, drawing water, and preparing food for the family. These physical activities has reduced their efficiency due to lack of sleep and rest. The rest of the family members don’t care about their health, which ultimately degrades the health and wellbeing of women.
As the corona pandemic continues, the number of crimes are likely to increase with an adverse impact on women’s wellbeing, sexual and reproductive health, and mental health.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau NCRB data, the number of crimes against women are around 378277 in 2018, with the crime rate at 58.8 against 57.9 in 2017.
The current scenario has made reporting more difficult as there are limitations on womens’ access to phones and helplines and also due to disrupted public services like police, helpline, and civil society. These disruptions may also create problems in the care and support of victims. The National Family Health Survey NFHS-4 data reveals that around 33 percent of ever-married women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence and the experience of physical violence is more common among women in rural areas with 32 percent and 25 percent in urban areas.
To tackle violence against women and girls, the government should come up with a more inclusive and diverse policy and mode of governance which needs to be gender-friendly and contribute towards the building of a healthy and violence-free society. The grassroots level organizations should come up with long-term strategies such as helplines, psychological support, online counseling and access to digital service to counter the increasing incidents of violence against women and girls. These supportive systems should encourage women to avail the services and get justice. Every citizen must ensure safety and all-around development by strengthening women for a more inclusive development of the country. In this perspective, it is imperative to remember the famous words of Dr. Ambedkar who once said “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved”.
Dr. Kalu Naik has received a Ph.D. from Centre for the Study of Regional Development, JNU, and currently associated with ICAR-NIAP, New Delhi.