The outbreak of the novel coronavirus which has grappled the world for over a few months now has completely changed the way people live, work and communicate. There is no doubt about the fact that the current scenario is not an ideal living or working scenario from any aspect, and people are struggling every day to cope with the ‘new normal’.
This situation is proving to be tough for everyone, but certain people are having it worse than the rest. The question of privilege always bring to the forefront the lives of the poor and the less fortunate people all over, especially India, where close to 82% of the population work in the unorganized sector and survive on daily wages. The less privileged have a difficult time surviving on any normal day leave alone a pandemic, but such times definitely prove to be even worse. The visuals of the migrant workers walking back home due to the pandemic has literally left most of us numb.
Speaking of privilege, there is another category of people who are having a very tough time now, from several aspects – physically, mentally, emotionally and also economically, i.e. women facing domestic abuse.
According to the statistics available from around the globe, one out of every three women has experienced violence in an intimate relationship at some point in her life (Visaria et al. 1999). Past studies have indicated that physical abuse of Indian women is quite high, ranging from 22 per cent to 60 per cent of women surveyed (Rao 1996 &Mahajan 1990).
Speaking of India per se, statistics show that one in every third women (30%) have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 15 (National Crime Record Bureau).The government helpline in India has received 92,000 calls on abuse and violence in 11 days since the PM’s announcement of country wide lockdown on March 24, 2020.
There has been a world wise rise of domestic abuse cases since the lockdowns began in different parts of the world and the complaints through telephones and emails haven’t stopped since. As per the record of the National Commission of women (NCW), the total complaints from women rose from 116 in the first week of March (March 2-8), to 257 till last week (March 23-April 1), and the records are expected to rise till the lockdown officially ends.
Experts had foreseen such an event and warned of increase in domestic abuse during the early phases of the Covid-19 outbreak. Vani Subramanian, member of the women’s group – Saheli Trust said, “captivity anyway drives people crazy and abusive situations only make it worse”.
Psychologist Padma Rewari says her own domestic help has an abusive, alcoholic husband. Now going without alcohol and cooped up in a small room, he has got more violent.
An article in the New York Times explained how movement restrictions aimed to stop the spread of coronavirus may be making violence in homes more frequent, more severe and more dangerous.
This explains that , these women have been survivors of domestic abuse and usually found their way out of their respective homes as and when necessary or when the situation got violently uncontrollable, but with this lockdown there is no way for them to get out and hence have no choice but to face the wrath of their partners violence.
This can turn very ugly very soon, if strict action is not taken against the perpetrators of domestic abuse and victims rescued at the earliest possible. The United Nations called on Sunday for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence and Secretary General Antonio Guterres wrote on Twitter, “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic”.
In an article titled, ‘A Gender lens on Covid-19: Pandemics and Violence against Women and Children’, experts such as Megan O Donell, Amber Peterman and Alina Potts have explained the pathway to violence and what worsens the cases of domestic violence during such crisis.
They have discussed it based on the past studies of violence in emergency and crisis situations. They have identified nine ways in which pandemics like covid-19 can lead to or increase in Violence against women and children. The pathway explained below can be both direct and indirect, and are likely to interact reinforcing existing vulnerabilities. The pathway is also based on contextual factors and underlying gender norms.
- Economic and Poverty Related Stress
- Quarantine and Self-isolation
- Disaster and conflict related Unrest and Instability
- Exposure to Exploitative Relationships due to changing demographics
- Reduced Health Service availability and access to first responders
- Virus-specific source of violence
- Inability of women to temporarily escape abusive partners
- Exposure to violence and coercion in response efforts
- Violence perpetrated against health care workers
They have also explained detailed policy formulations and strategic actions to deal with this sensitive matter. However, the need of the hour is for the victims to be alive and be able to escape from the violent situation at hand. It is sad that many are not even reporting the cases of violence because of fear of things getting worse, as said by Rekha Sharma (Chief, National Commission for Women (NCW).
The web based portal flutur (creates a multitude of mobile and web products that can be used for free, primarily driven for social cause) have compiled a list of 24×7 help lines for reporting domestic violence. The detailed list of phone numbers and contact information are given below.
All India (24×7)
Dial 1091. A toll-free number that is answered by women in the police force; provides immediate rescue for distressed women.
AASRA: 022-27546669. It is a crisis intervention center for the lonely, distressed, and suicidal. Their confidential helpline is answered by professionally trained volunteers
Bengaluru City Police: 080-22943225. It provides immediate rescue and support for women in distress. Also provides free tele-counseling, police assistance and crisis intervention services.
Ashraya Women’s Centre: +91-8025251929. It provides support, rehabilitation, and counselling coupled with training and legal help for women who’ve faced physical as well as mental abuse.
Shakti Shalini: 011-23317004. It provides crisis intervention and counselling. Also operates a women’s shelter, reachable at 011-24373736/ 24373737.
Azad Foundation: 011-40601878. It operates this helpline service for distress and rescue calls. It also provides livelihood training and employment services.
Jagori: 011-26692700. Counselling and support services for emotionally and sexually abused women.
Sakshi: (0124) 2562336/ 5018873. A violence intervention center.
Dial: 1298. The helpline operated by over 80 NGOs in Mumbai.
SNEHA: +91-9833092463. It provides counselling and moral support for mentally and physically abused women. They also organize regular group sessions to spread awareness in order to prevent further abuse.
AKS Foundation: +91-8793088814/15/16. It provides aid to victims of domestic abuse.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
Moitrayee Das can be reached at: [email protected]