While the world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic, there is another pandemic that needs to be tackled. The life of women amidst the lockdown has been affected by the increase in incidents of domestic violence daily, across different countries. A large number of people are using #AntiDomesticViolenceDuringEpidemic on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, clearly indicating the appalling situation of women in the lockdown.
“WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge said countries “are reporting up to a 60% increase in emergency calls by women subjected to violence by their intimate partners in April this year, compared to last”. India has also seen a rise in the number of cases of violence and other crimes against women, amidst the lockdown and its restrictions.” (AFP)
Women have to resort legal alternatives to protect themselves but the Indian legislature deeply fails to uphold it as the legal mechanism developed is according to the situation of women over a decade old and can’t stand in the present time. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 enacted by the Parliament defines domestic violence for the first time in India. It provides that actual abuse or threat of abuse whether sexual, physical, or verbal abuse can be termed as domestic violence under the Act. It also covers harassment through unlawful dowry demands made by in-laws and relatives.
The loopholes in the Act can’t be ignored and requires amendments for safeguarding the interests of women in society. The act only serves as civil law and the criminal proceedings can be initiated against the accuser only if he violates a Protection Order, under the act. The Act fails to serve its designed purpose that is safeguarding women due to its ineffective implementation.
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was a major step to criminalize cruelty against women by their husbands, in-laws, and relatives. But the scope of the Act is limited as it considers only severe cases of violence and abuses and fails to take into account the daily tortures faced by the women in their home. The Court while deciding cases of domestic abuse fails to consider the mental and emotional mishaps faced by women every day. Although there has been the misuse of Section 498A by various women, its main aim to protect the rights of women can’t be overlooked and the amendments should be made in keeping the idea of gender equality in mind.
“Petition filed by NGO, All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice in the Delhi High Court says helplines across the country have received 92,000 calls reporting domestic violence and abuse in the first 11 days of the lockdown. National Commission for Women (as of April 17) said that it had reported 587 cases of domestic violence between March 23rd – April 16 – a significant surge from the 396 complaints they had received in the previous 25 days.” (EH News Bureau)
The lockdown is providing the husbands with the opportunity to release their agony upon women at their houses. The women can’t approach the police or relevant authorities for justice due to societal pressure and these additional challenges in a pandemic is worsening their situation. Even if they reach the court, the chances of accused getting punished are minimal as the conviction rate is less than 10% only.
In these difficult times, the Court has also agreed to employ video conferencing methods for urgent matters and should give more priority to domestic abuse cases so that the survivors, will be protected from the accused on an immediate basis.
The problems for women may exasperate as the government has decided to open liquor shops as according to National Family Health Data presented by the government there is a direct link between alcohol use and violence conducted by men. So, it will also lead to an escalation in the cases of domestic violence as people are already facing monetary difficulties and are deeply stressed due to job loss, food security, and health emergency issues.
The frustration along with the consumption of alcohol will add fuel to the present state. Instead of generating revenue for the government, the situation will have more aggravating effects on the lives of the women.
The main reason for the increase in domestic violence in India is because of the male-centric culture prevalent in India, from time immemorial. With the advent of industrialisation, globalisation, an increase in literacy rate, there has been an increase in crimes against women although it was expected to reduce. Women are treated as ‘things’ and subjected to oppression because male thinks that they are the dominant ones. Even in the 21st century where women excel in each field, it’s high time that male members of the society stop thinking about women as childbearing machines as well as caretakers of household chores.
- AFP. “Coronavirus Lockdown | Surge in Domestic Violence, Says WHO.” The Hindu, 7 May 2020,www.thehindu.com/news/international/coronavirus-lockdown-surge-in- domestic-violence-says-who/article31529111.ece.
- EH News Bureau. “Cases of Domestic Violence Rising, Being Reported from across India during Lockdown: Population Foundation of India.” Express Healthcare, 24 Apr. 2020, www.expresshealthcare.in/news/cases-of-domestic-violence-rising-being-reported- from-across-india-during-lockdown-population-foundation-of-india/419288.
This blog is written by Amrit Rathi, Jindal Global Law School
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