Pandemic destroying harmony at Home
Quarantined in closed claustrophobic spaces Domestic violence Rise
As the people are being forced inside the four walls of their homes during pandemic the world is witnessing another global crisis. There has been a twofold rise in the cases of gender-based violence in the national Coronavirus lockdown period. The National Commission for Women saw huge shoot in the total complaints from women; it recorded 116 complaints in the first week of March (March 2-8), to 257 in the final week (March 23-April 1). This surge in cases is seen not just in India but across the world as the victims are quarantined inside their homes with the abusers. With this regard, UN chief Antonio Guterres also made a frantic appeal to the world to maintain peace in homes and urging govt. to take measures for women safety during the pandemic. But governments largely failed to understand how the public health measures are going to affect those quarantined with their abusers. Just like the response to the virus itself, the delays mean that irreparable harm may already have occurred.
It is a pattern being repeated globally from Brazil to Germany, Italy to China and India. The cocktail of social distancing, economic downturn, and abusive relationships is especially concerning in India which ranks 112th when it comes to gender parity. There are more cases being reported for domestic violence in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab. Job loss, salary cuts, an uncertain future arising out of the lockdown has everyone on edge.
INDIAN SOCIETY AND LAWMAKERS
It seems like the confinement is unwinding the real stereotypical mindsets of partners. Even education is useless unless it successfully subverts conservative values, teaching young gender equality and respect between partners. It is pertinent that lawmakers incorporate modern, feminist values into the law to stop the vicious cycle of abuse during the ongoing epidemic.
Even in normal circumstances, domestic violence cases are not registered much as women are discouraged to report such cases in our society in the name of family issues and personal lives. India does not have a robust reporting system to find out the extent of violence. Thus, the major defence of the abusers being allegations of misuse of Section 498A. Though Domestic law as a criminal offence is a blunt tool, the police culture still fails to comply and implement effectively. The efficacy to deal with the offence during the times of pandemic must be monitored by the lawmakers and jurist as none of them anticipated a complete quarantine. Our laws have not been formulated to deal with a situation like this before. The perpetrator and the victim are residing in proximity with each other making it tough to report the offence. This pandemic brought about the inadequacies in the Indian Anti-Domestic Violence Law.
THE TRIGGER POINTS
Isolation is a key component of intimate partner violence and the coercive control of individuals. It is also one of the typical strategies being used by the abusers by separating the victim and not letting them encounter the outer world. The stay at home orders around the country is doing the same for them by creating an even more favourable condition to exploit the vulnerable ones.
Donna Fernandes, Co-founder of Vimochana, Forum for Women’s Rights said “The trigger point is economics. A lot of people do not have the means to manage a square meal. All these will become flashpoints for destroying the harmony in the home, causing unrest; it is bound to reflect and manifest into domestic violence, and verbal and physical abuse.”
As the economy of the country crumbles people are rendered jobless and failing to cope with the stress, they end up getting frustrated on petty issues. This is also playing a huge role in the rise of domestic abuse. The violence is even worst in the poorer sections of society. Several women have also indicated that their husband’s inability to without alcohol and cooped up in small spaces had turned them even more aggressive.
The unavailability of police during the pandemic is contributing to the rise in cases. As the police are busy on the frontlines many victims are unable to access stringent measures. Moreover, the NGOs are also failing to help these victims due to the quarantine being enforced.
FRANCE’S HOTEL, A SECRET CODE or PUNITIVISM – WHAT SHOULD BE INDIA'S RECOURSE?
Whether we can adopt penal sanctions on the perpetrators of domestic abuse during quarantine? Or Should an individual be pronounced/held guilty without much of a trial or adherence to the principles of natural justice? A detailed study by Ms. Radha Iyengar at Harvard University revealed that police action (punitive action) in cases of domestic violence increased intimate partner homicides. Thus, this might also result in abusers committing murders.
France has announced that it would pay for hotel rooms for victims of domestic abuse. The French government is funding for anti-domestic abuse organisations to help them respond to increased demand for services. Also Inspired by Spain, France has started telling victims to head to drugstores and can simply say the codeword "mask 19" to the pharmacist behind the counter. But except for few ‘awareness messages’ India has done nothing to cope up with the situation. Also, unlike these nations, we do not know if we have the potential logistics to move victims to safe homes or order the aggressor to move out of their homes, especially without any preliminary inquiry.
So, in this case, the potential solutions could make sure to spread awareness regarding the ways in which these victims can report these crimes and assure them that the shelter homes are open for them if the need comes. Most importantly, counselling is the need of the hour. The demand for counselling may supersede the availability, but it appears to be the most viable solution during an epidemic outbreak that has caused a national lockdown. Police should be the last resort as it can be counterproductive. Thus, counsellors, trained mediators, lawyers, psychiatrists, or anyone who could help must come forward towards helping those in need. This could be achieved through phone, WhatsApp, video conferencing or even through mass media.