BHOPAL: The Covid-19 pandemic spurred an unprecedented jump in the cases of domestic violence in the state. During the lockdown, women filed more domestic violence complaints than recorded in the corresponding period in the past 10 years. And this, when 86% women who experience domestic violence do not seek help in India. Experts say that pandemics provide an enabling environment of fear and uncertainty that exacerbate violence against women. Economic insecurity, financial instability and isolation are also some of the factors that contribute to making domestic violence even more widespread.
According to the National Family Health Survey-4, conducted in 2015-’16, 33% of married women in the age group of 15-49 experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence at the hands of their husbands. Of these women, only 14% sought help and 77% never spoke about it. Among those who sought help, 65% reported to the natal family and only 3% reported to the police.
A lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus was announced on March 24, 2020. Within a fortnight, the National Commission of Women (NCW) reported a 100% rise in complaints of domestic violence cases. A nationwide WhatsApp number was then launched by the NCW to provide an alternative method for women to report domestic abuse. SCRB data (see accompanying table) shows how cases of domestic violence grew during the lockdown and, after it, in the state.
Why upward spiral in cases
Restricted movement: The lockdown incapacitated women by preventing them from moving to safer places in cases of violence and abuse. With men and women cohabiting together for longer periods, the privacy of women plummeted and instances of violence rose.
Handicapped mediums of communication: Only 38% of women in India own phones and fewer have an Internet connection, making this platform inaccessible to a majority of the women in the country.