In this uncertain world, life is full of risk and the survivability of humanity is on test. The outbreak of pandemic Covid-19 has put on test the peoples patience, resilience and determination to survive against the unseen enemy. Many countries are imposing various forms of lockdown in order to lower the spread of Covid-19. This lockdown period has brought about many changes in the countries implementing them. Many people are taking this as a positive change and are building their skills while some are resorting to unfavourable means and causing harm to other people.
The Lockdown has brought about many changes in India. It has led people to opt for work from home and has thus led to spending more time with family members and partners. Therefore it has strengthened family relationships. With ample amount of time in hand, people are doing things that they would never have time to do earlier. Parents now have time to play with their children, while the children have time to spend with their Grandparents; families are doing many chores together with each other. Therefore it can be seen that the Covid-19 has brought colourful shades of family bonding, something which is hard to encounter in the commotion of daily life. This home bound confinement has strengthened the bonds between families which was inconceivable due to the hectic schedules of daily life. So, for families which did not get to spend much time together, covid-19 has come as a silver lining.
At a time like this when more than half of the population of the world is living under some form of lockdown, and home is considered to be the safest place in the world, this might not be true for many others. Families are complex and therefore we cannot say whether the Covid-19 is helping to strengthen family relationships or not. Moreover, not all families are same across the world. While for some, the family might be a safe place to be in, but for others, families might be the hub of mental health issues. Therefore, this lockdown has become very dangerous for such individuals. Moreover, women and children who suffer from domestic violence have no escape from their abusers during this period. Many are woefully trapped with their abusers with no place to go. After the lockdown had been imposed to control the spread of Covid-19, cases of domestic violence have been on an increase throughout the country. Since the lockdown, the number of complaints has doubled during the first week of the lockdown but later on the cases decreased, but are still more than the usual complaints received before the lockdown as per the National Commission for Women (NCW). The women are now trapped with their perpetrators inside the household and it has become difficult for them to report incidents of domestic abuse. Women have now found it difficult to approach NGO’s for any kind of help as they cannot get out of their households. As most of these complainants use e-mails to report such incidents. So, this has put women without proper internet access at a much higher risk. Most of the women in rural or semi rural areas used to write letters in the form of complaints as they are devoid of any internet facilities but due to the halt in functions of the postal services, they are not being able to approach the appropriate authorities now. Most of them do not have access to internet connection in India, especially those who live in the slums, pavements, rural and semi rural areas living in very small quarters. These women are subjected to a multitude of mental tortures everyday in various ways like finding food for the family as well as bearing the abuse from their husbands and nowhere to call. The police are already overburdened with other issues in hand and there is no proper helpline to be reached during this period. Even counselling is of no use in these cases as the NGO’s can only speak over the phone and assist but cannot go and help the victims personally.
This worrying trend is not only reported in India, it has now become a global problem with rise in domestic violence being reported in the United States of America, Turkey, South Africa, United Kingdom, Australia, China and many other countries. This horrifying trend has been discussed in the United Nations Assembly as well and all the countries are called upon to react and take effective measures to curb this menace on an urgent basis.
The State Governments in India are taking steps to curb Domestic Violence in this country. To curb Domestic Violence, the Rajasthan Government has opened a helpline number during Covid-19 Lockdown called the ‘Garima Helpline’ where women facing atrocities can lodge a complaint.
The Tamil Nadu Government, to rescue women in distress due to domestic abuse, has instilled a response system and Anganwadi workers are being placed as coordinators to receive and escalate calls of domestic violence to their immediate superiors. Some 111 counsellors have been temporarily designated as Protection Officers. Expeditious transport arrangements of the protection officers to respond to complaints of domestic abuse have been made. The police department have set up telephone counselling with the help of psychological counselling to women and children in distress. There is an emergency call number 112 which has been linked to the ‘KAVALAN SOS APP’ which is dealing with cases relating to domestic violence. Direct rescue teams have also been formed to address such issues of domestic violence.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has said that they are undertaking various measures to reach out to the women in distress like providing immediate assistance, providing mobile helpline number, providing telephone counsellors, providing a Whatsapp Helpline Number and making adequate amounts of publicity.
The National Commission for Women have taken various measures to curb domestic violence during this period. During the period of March 23rd to 31st the NCW had received 257 complaints and during the first week of the lockdown, the NCW has received 116 complaints mostly via emails. A Whatsapp number has been introduced for women to report such cases of violence. The NCW is trying to reach out to each and every complainant and closing down cases in one day or two days time. In few cases they have even transferred the women to some other place like their parents house or to some hostel. In some cases, on initiation by NCW, the police have lodged FIR’s against the husbands.
The Delhi High Court through a Writ petition has directed the Central Government to take necessary measures to curb Domestic Violence during Lockdown. It has directed the government to increase the number of temporarily appointed Protection Officers as envisaged under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The bench while disposing off the petition also directed that the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 should be duly implemented. All help lines and Whatsapp numbers should be properly functional.
One of the main concerns is that the police officials are helpless as they are already overburdened with work and are continuously on duty to stop the spread of Covid-19 so they do not have time to look at other issues. A suggestion would be for the police to join hands with the civil society organisations as they alone cannot stop this and basically can decentralise the support provided to these women. They can find organisations that are working in various areas regarding this and can attach them to the local police station so that the complaints can be diverted to the local police station. Each and every case cannot be registered right now so some form of Arbitration is required at this moment for these cases.
The lockdown has been a boon as well as bane for the humanity. On one hand, some families are coming together and relationships are reviving; while on the other hand, the differences between some other families are increasing due to abuse and torture. It is definitely frustrating when people are bound to be inside a house for several days but if we convert this time and do some positive work instead then this time can be utilized in building strong relationships. While the government is doing its part to curb domestic violence in this country, we as citizens should ensure that we try to stay as positive as we can and try to spread positivity around us.