Well, since the day our honorable prime minister has declared lockdown in the country i.e. from 24th march, we all did find some hobbies to pass our time or some skills in our area of interest or some new talents. I definitely came across some new recipes and some talent shows, in fact, some wonderful paintings, but isn’t it wonderful to have a new talent than to have bruises all over your body. although home is considered to be a safe place for everyone and we all crave to be back home during this pandemic but home is not the safest place for some. During the lockdown, there has been a tremendous surge in the cases of domestic violence.
In India, the national commission for women has raised an alert about the continuing increase in the number of domestic violence cases. According to the data stated by The Hindu, during the first four phases of the lockdown, Indian women filed more domestic violence complaints than recorded in the last 10 years, Surprising? well this is not the whole data because more than 80% of women facing domestic violence do not speak or make a complaint about it and about 86% of the women never sought any help and 77% of them did not even mention the abuse to anyone. Many domestic violence victims brought the fact that before the lockdown they had a chance to run and hide in case they suspected any abuse but now during the lockdown, it has been difficult because they are confined in their so-called safe place “home”.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Domestic violence is not physical violence alone. Domestic violence is any behavior the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend, or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses. In our Indian society, a plethora of women in their lifetime experience domestic violence, and more than 80% of them choose not to speak about it and surprisingly, according to their family beliefs, small arguments and little violence is no big deal and women should be quiet about it and not make a fuss about it to save their marriage.
There is also this continuous pressure from the society and family and whenever a woman tries to share this with her family, she always gets a reply that she has to bear with it and adjust a little bit because taking personal matters to the police station or court is not good for their reputation and our society makes the life of a divorcee vulnerable and difficult to even survive, or we can also say it is a state of “learned helplessness” because a woman knows that she will not get any support from family or relatives or society, so she chooses to stick in the relationship, and eventually the cycle becomes so permeating that she cannot think of any other way to seek help.
Another major reason to be in an abusive relationship is a women’s dependence on her partner, this is where the majority of women take a back leap from the idea of separating from their husband as women are so dependent on their husbands that they have no place to go if they decide to leave them because there are no decent shelter homes for them to survive and even if there are, women do not find themselves capable enough to earn their own living and survive in the society. Not being biased or anything, men face abuse too but you cannot really count the number of men on fingertips because generally women are the ones suffering, as, in the majority of the cases, it is always women.
Domestic Violence in India
Domestic violence involves psychological, physical, sexual, economic, and emotional abuse. Attacks, threats, insults, and intimidation are also considered violent acts. so we cannot generally categorize violence to just physical abuse but even if someone is going through stress which impacts her psychological behavior or if she is forced to be in a sexual act without her consent, it is all considered as domestic violence.
In India, the laws which regulate the domestic violence is the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005. this act provides for the broader scope to the meaning of domestic violence and mentions its scope and application. This act was important legislation as earlier the cases were dealt with under the Indian penal code which did not consider the gender of the victim and in addition, it excluded the victims which happened to be children. Moreover, the legislation gave a broader feminist approach to the act which helped courts to get insight into women’s point of view rather than generalizing the Act. Section 3 of the Act defines domestic violence.
Definition of domestic violence.—For the purposes of this Act, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it—
- Harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, and economic abuse; or
- Harasses, harms, injures, or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or
- Has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or
- otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE LOCKDOWN
So what caused such a tremendous increase in the number of cases that crossed all the records? One of the reasons that we can surely count on is the frustration faced by men in this period of layoff. From the starting of the lockdown, many people lost their jobs and employment or pay cuts and downsizing as the company were going in losses and could not afford to render salary to every employee which in turn caused the firing of many employees and also migrant laborers who leave their hometown in search of a job and travel a thousand miles just to find a stable earning but the lockdown caused a massive crisis over these small scale laborers and workers.
The unemployment faced by them triggered their frustration and boosted anger which was then reflected on their wives and children. On top of these economic issues, we also have non- availability of alcohol, limited income, and resource. And to top it all, there is limited to no social life which in itself is a frustrating thought but this cannot be made an excuse to justify their acts. Because no matter what your reason was but that does not give any person the authority to use the force of any kind on any person.
This topic is not new and the practice of beating their family members and wives has been going on since ancient times but this lockdown is different because they don’t have anyone to share their grief with, or tell anyone or hide at a safe place because it is happening all under one roof and it is difficult to reach out to NGOs or government because everyone at this time is busy and preoccupied with the patients and laborers and finding help for them.
Theresa May, the former prime minister of the UK in her address to all the MPs said “measures to tackle coronavirus must not do more damage than the disease itself.” well we can say that she already knew the consequences. because India is not the only county that is facing this issue but like coronavirus, this problem is faced by women of all countries irrespective of color, caste, religion. at least we have got something where we don’t show discrimination.
REMEDIES AND MEASURES
If a person commits a crime of domestic violence, according to section 498A, the offender will be punished for up to 3 years and a fine imposed by the court. It can be based on “cruelty”, which is any form of mental, physical, economic, emotional, or verbal harm. Coercion, dowry harassment, and abetment to suicide also belong to this.
Cruelty under section 498 is defined as Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also is liable to fine.
The government should establish some counseling centers for such victims so that they can easily contact them. NGOs should take this issue more seriously because it is not only a virus that can harm humans. It is human beings who hurt each other. And, the women should not even think about ending an abusive relationship, CrPC also has provisions like 125 that helps them to maintain a good life without economic burden even after separating on a divorce.
Police should also take matters seriously and lodge F.I.R immediately on the complaint of the women and not wait or take it casually and making excuses that this is casual and is normal because it’s not normal.
Awareness is the key to get through this situation because till date 50% of the women still believe that this is all okay in a marriage and it can all be sorted but that is not the truth and thus more awareness should be brought so that it will be a lesson to those who are brutally harassing their wives and family members.
Adjusting in a marriage is a different thing and it nowhere is connected to getting beaten by your husband and hoping for everything to be fine. I am not a feminazi but what is wrong is wrong in all its aspects whether the act has any justification or not. In addition to this, the notion that has continued for several years that a woman cannot live her life alone and cannot earn should be removed from society because being single is not a stigma rather it’s a choice for a better lifestyle.
The constitution of India provides for the right to life and the right to life does not mean mere animal existence but a right to live with dignity. And I believe that a woman is fully capable of taking her own stand and living her life with dignity but rather it’s her own family and society that has fed her with wrong notions and beliefs.
And, it would be no harm to say that domestic violence is a bane in the society and the brutality inflicted on women is worse than one can imagine, and not even animals are treated like this. now is the time to change this patriarchal belief that men have the right to treat women at his own discretion but now women have the same choices and rights to live her life at her own wishes.
Janhavi Singh | UPES, Dehradun
  https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/india-witnesses-steep-rise-in-crime-against-women-amid-lockdown-587-complaints-received-ncw/articleshow/75201412.cms
 The data on domestic violence – https://www.thehindu.com/data/data-domestic-violence complaints-at-a-10-year-high-during-covid-19-lockdown/article31885001.ece
 Definition of domestic violence https://www.acesdv.org/domestic-violence-graphics/
 Section 3 of the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
 Section 498, IPC 1860 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/538436/
 Section 125, CrPC, 1973 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1056396/