ABSTRACT This year we witnessed a new and abnormal situation, something we never imagined. Everyone was forced into home confinement because of the lockdowns imposed worldwide. The lockdown was more challenging for the women, both professionals and homemakers, due to the entire family being at home, demanding more care and attention compared to usual times and increasing their burden of workload.
But this isn’t the only challenge women faced, domestic violence has also increased during the lockdown. Risks of exploitation and gender-based violence hiked visibly in these testing days.
LOCKED IN THE FOUR WALLS OR TRAPPED IN A MARE’S NEST: THE STORY OF DAMSEL IN DISTRESS Ever since the Corona Virus pandemic broke out, women are dying in higher numbers, a lot than before – not just by the virus, but at the hands of abusive partners with whom they are locked in the four walls. Maybe if the victims of femicide or feminicide were added to the stats of pandemic’s daily death toll, the world would become more aware of the current plight of women violated by men and even murdered by them. All countries have reported an increase in domestic violence, and the femicide rates are also on hike.
Due to the restrictions of the lockdown there has been greater difficulty for the victim in approaching the police or other authorities, call up on help lines, etc. This is because the abuser is constantly there, and the woman is scared that a complaint will give rise to more violence. Her ability to leave the home, take refuge somewhere else was no longer possible in the lockdown. Working-women are facing additional household duties, apart from the fear of job loss and wage cuts. The new normal i.e. Work from home, is more stressful for most people. The vulnerability of women is not just due to more work at home and fear of job loss. Stats from the National Commission of Women showed the number of cases of domestic violence having doubled compared to the pre-lockdown period. The opening up of liquor shops in May increased the cases even more. Ghaziabad reported 291 cases between March 25 and May 5; the number raised to 342 cases between May 5 and May 15. There was a similar trend in Noida. Other cities have witnessed a similar trend in reported cases of domestic violence. Despite helpline numbers being advertised by the government and option of complaining via e-mediums like WhatsApp, the situation remains the same. One big reason can be lack of privacy for women in the households. With all members at home and the fear of being overheard by the abuser, makes it kind of impossible to report a complaint. The patriarchal norms; allowing men control or dominate women, is the most common reason for women not being able to raise their voice or seek help. But this plight of women isn’t just a regional or national issue, femicide is happening everywhere around the globe. It’s infesting like bedbugs. The United Nations Secretary General called domestic violence a “ceasefire” amid a “horrifying global surge”. He also mentioned “with families isolated in their homes, children are also facing the rapid increase of online child abuse.”
And sometimes, Misogyny knows no boundaries; In Romania one such instance comes into light, one COVID-19 patient was caught escaping quarantine centre in order to attack his ex-wife. In Turkey, anti-abuse hotlines are overwhelmed with complaints by women, who are suffering mental and physical violence by their abusive partners. In Brazil, the state hotline reported an increase of 18% in calls. In France, the Interior Minister, publicly admitted that domestic violence had increased by 30% since the lockdown.
CLOSURE This is the high time to realize that femicide, like COVID-19, is a pandemic, even if it has not been conceded as one by the World Health Organization yet. As much as we like to think that the current day social order has evolved and that there is less gender inequality, but so is not the case in true scenario, the male-dominated world is willingly dedicated to combat the virus, but is not yet prepared to pay equal attention and resources to combat the pandemic of femicide. Now is the time for the Government and International Organizations to wake up to the reality of domestic violence against women, and take reformative measures at the global, national and state level. One group that is receiving forlorn attention, is rural women. Given t large-scale return of men back to rural areas, rural women faced a lot of distress too.
What is to be done then? The network of Asha–Anganwadi workers needs to be solidified, using them, to monitor vulnerable households and identify women facing domestic abuse. The existing welfare schemes need amendments and effective implementation. The local governance system should be strengthened, as decentralization provides remedies at the grassroots level of the problem. But the law alone can’t win over this dire strait of women. There’s an old saying – “IF YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF YOUR PREDICAMENT, YOU HAVE TO STOP FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF”. Hence if women want to end this plight for good they too have to stand firm and combat.