“O Janneman”, she increased her pace on hearing a stranger calling. She reached the bus stop but could still feel eyes on her. It was dreadful. She wanted to reach home as soon as possible. She wanted to cover herself in the safety that only a home could provide.
About 95% of women feel unsafe in public places (UN Women, 2013) and about 50% of women face harassment during commutation (Pan India Study, 2015). Though women are considered most vulnerable while commuting, their entrapment during the lockdown tells a different story. While protecting themselves from the pandemic, women face another terminal problem. Though cases such as rape, catcalling, stalking and other forms of molestation have decreased due to restrictions on movement, a rise in the cases of domestic violence is seen, which is horrendous. Even before the lockdown, 243 million females of 15-49 years have faced physical abuse (UN Women reported). National Family Health Survey 2016 reveals that 30% of women of 15-49 years’ experience physical violence. About 31% of married women experience abuse by their spouses.
Given the already sheer violation of basic human rights, the world is now experiencing a surge in such crimes! Where are we moving to?
[i]France has reported a 30% increase in such case. In UK, calls to the national abuse hotline went up by 65%. Spain has registered calls to 144 gender violence hotline increase by 25%. In Singapore, AWARE’s Women Helpline number has registered an increase in calls by 33%. In Australia 40% of frontline workers reported increase in the calls to domestic violence helpline. National Commission for Women registered over 587 complaints between March 27-April 16 2020.
Many countries/places have registered a drop in such calls, like the Delhi Commission for Women. This trend is more frightening since it indicates the inability of victims to reach for help. A lot of women might not be able to make phone calls due to the constant presence of the abuser. A lack of help increases the chance for their abusers to coerce them and inculcate greater fear in their relationships.
The lockdown has also compromised the care and support services provided by various NGOs and counseling centers- clinical management, mental health and psycho-social support to the survivors. To free oneself from the clutches of an abuser, women need to be financially independent but given the situation of a recession of the global economy, the solution is covered by clouds.
These statistics do not tell the whole story. A lot of cases are not even reported! Women belonging to poor households find it difficult to reach out for help due to lack of access to phones and the internet while many do not report marital rapes and domestic violence due to the fear of society. UN Women reported that only about 40% of women facing domestic violence call domestic abuse hotlines and only about 10% go to the police. In the current situation, it has become even more difficult for them to reach for help.
A lot of reasons can be put forward for such an abusive behavior of men but these can never be taken as excuses to set them free. With everything that is going on, this world requires a change in mindset which certainly cannot be achieved overnight. So, there is a need for proper counseling of men too to help them get through the situation without inflicting pain on others. During the lockdown, ways should be formulated to help NGOs to reach both the victims and the abusers. There is a need for the allocation of more resources to enable these centers to reach a wider section of the population. Also, every country should have stringent laws in place and practice. It has been reported that about 1 in 4 countries do not have any laws to serve justice to the victims of domestic violence.
For a dignified life, safety and security are basic human rights. The status of women in society determines their safety. Women being the target of violence and rapes in their own homes makes me question the very core of humanity, the very idea of ‘home’. It seems that humanity has gotten lost somewhere in space- unable to find its way back to earth. As rightly pointed by the UN chief, “peace is not just the absence of war”. It is indeed necessary that we come together to fight the battle to keep women safe as we fight COVID-19. For a sustainable, inclusive and resilient society, every section must live a dignified life.
 Bhatt, A. Women’s Safety in Public Transport-A Pilot Initiative in Bhopal. 2015. Embarq India
 Domestic violence cases jump 30% during lockdown in France.23rd March, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/03/28/domestic-violence-cases-jump-30-during-lockdown-in-france
 During quarantine, calls to 144 for gender violence increased by 25%. 21st March, 2020. http://www.diario21.tv/notix2/movil2/?seccion=desarrollo_nota&id_nota=132124
 Commentary: Isolated with your abuser? Why family violence seems to be on the rise during COVID-19 outbreak. 26 March, 2020. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/coronavirus-covid-19-family-violence-abuse-women-self-isolation-12575026
 Domestic Violence Spikes During Coronavirus As Families Trapped At Home. 27 March, 2020. https://10daily.com.au/news/australia/a200326zyjkh/domestic-violence-spikes-during-coronavirus-as-families-trapped-at-home-20200327
 Coronavirus cases: No Lockdown for Domestic Violence. 26 April, 2020. https://www.deccanherald.com/specials/insight/coronavirus-crisis-no-lockdown-for-domestic-violence-829941.html
[i] The data pertains to the month of April – June (when lockdown was in full force everywhere)
Image Credit: Google
Categories: social issues