CHILD ABUSE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, A “SHADOW PANDEMIC” AMID CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN

MUKUL KUMAR

INTRODUCTION

Mankind is suffering from its darkest phase. The menace of Corona has dilapidated the fundamentals of hope, belief and optimism. This dreadful disease has not only cost the lives of millions of people but also engraved a fear inside mankind to never forget its gift to them, a gift of catastrophe and fiasco. Till now the world has lost 1, 98,532 lives in the hands of this pandemic and many more to show up. We cannot predict how our life is going to be moulded by this virus or whether it’s a sign of doomsday or something else but what we know is that we cannot escape from this and we have to face it with utmost feeling of togetherness. Even the world’s most puissant country, the United States of America is engulfed by this pandemic. The most influential fact about this virus is that, it does not discriminate among caste or creed, mighty or weak, or developed or under developed. It spreads its hand for all. But there is another pandemic which has been prevalent in the world long before today. This is more devastating than any virus or flu and the irony is that the people are completely aware of this and still the mankind has never tired to make a vaccine for this. It arises from the four walls of houses, a “shadow pandemic” called domestic violence and child abuse.

When the whole world is engaged in seeking a solution to fight Covid-19, there is something else sprouting inside our homes. The only thing that one can do right now to fight this virus is through social distancing and the nation-wide lockdown. But the lockdown seems to be the reason for growth of another dreadful sin.

According to statistics released by the UN, reports of domestic violence in France have increased by 30% following the country’s lockdown. Not only in France but in the first two weeks of lockdown in Spain, the emergency number for domestic violence received 18% more calls and helpline in Singapore received 30% more calls. These statistics clearly depict that during the lockdown, the cases of domestic violence has increased tremendously. It seems that people are expressing their frustration of being locked down on women and children. The world is already intrigued in the deadly virus and it is not prepared for any other problem like this. In the first four weeks of the lockdown in the UK, 13 women and 4 children are believed to have been killed by men most while shut inside their homes[1]. Calls to domestic violence helpline numbers have increased by 120%, while traffic to their websites is tripling. The most affected country by the pandemic is U.S.A and even there the cases of domestic violence have increased up to 35% in recent weeks.

INDIAN SCENARIO

India has not remained untouched from this shadow pandemic. Commission of Women has received more cases of violence during lockdown than before. According to NCW, the total number of complain from 116 in the 1st week March to 257 in the final week of March – April.[2] States which are most affected by this includes UP, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab. The literacy rates of these states indicate that the results are not shocking. According to SunandaDesai, a middle class working women in Mumbai, ‘self-esteem is being crushed every single day’. She is questioned every single day for not been done well. She is shouted at by her husband, her in-laws and even by her children.[3] The complete lockdown, not only restricts the movement in the country but it seemingly keeps people mind locked inside their houses too. Men are taking out their frustration on women and they refuse to participate in the domestic chores. Job loss, salary cuts, an uncertain future arising out of lockdown has forced everyone to be on the edge.

Not only domestic violence but child abuse has also rose drastically during the lockdown. The child line India helpline received more than 92000 SOS calls asking for protection from abuse and violence in 11 days.[4] Of the 3.07 lakh calls received by the child line 1098 helpline from March 20th – 31st, covering the 1st week of the lockdown. 30% were about protection against abuse and violence on children, said Harleen Walia, deputy director of child line India.

BEYOND THE INDIAN BOUNDARIES

According to a report by Wold Health Organisation (WHO), one in every three women around the globe experiences the ghastly sin, either physically or sexually. At least 30% of all women who are in relationships have experience violence by their partners. In France, reports of domestic violence have increased by 30% since the lockdown on March 17. In the countries like Cyprus and Singapore, helplines have registered an increase in calls of 30% and 33% respectively. In Argentina, emergency calls regarding the report of domestic violence have surged by 25% since the lockdown declared. In Australia, a Women’s Safety New South Wales survey has revealed that 40% of frontline workers have reported increased request for help by the domestic violence survivors, and 70% have reported that the cases received have increased in their level of complexity during the outbreak. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has calculated that tens of millions of women will not be able to access modern contraceptives this year, and millions of more girls will undergo female genital mutilation or be married off by 2030.[5]

REMEDIES AVAILABILE IN INDIA AGINST DOMESTICE VIOLENCE MENACE

Domestic violence was recognized and enacted as a specific criminal offence in 1983. A particular section (498 A)[6] was introduced in the columns of Indian Penal Code. This section particularly deals against the domestic cruelty inflicted upon married girls by their in laws. Under this section, a punishment of up to 3 years and fine is prescribed for those indulge in this heinous act. The term ‘cruelty’ has been defined in a wide terms so as to include inflicting physical or mental harm to the woman. Harassment for dowry falls in the sweep of another part of this section that is under Section 304 B[7]. Driving a woman to commit suicide also fells in the ambit of ‘cruelty’ and is dealt under Section 306. The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 grants relief to the wives and children. The provisions of maintenance of the (CrPC) are applicable to all persons irrespective of their religion and their own personal laws. Therefore, according to Section 125(1) of the above mentioned Code, the following persons are entitled to claim maintenance under certain circumstances:

  • If any person having sufficient means and willingly neglects or refuses to maintain his wife or children;
  • His wife, unable to maintain herself; or
  • His legitimate or illegitimate minor child, whether married or not, unable to maintain itself.

SOME MEASURES TAKEN WORLDWIDE

UN Secretary General Antonio Gueteres in his speech directed the governments of different countries to put women safety on priority as they respond to the pandemic. He ordered the governments to increase investment in online services and civil society organisations, declaring shelter as essential services and continue to prosecute abusers. On his directions, numerous national and local governments have started following these instructions. Canada is keeping domestic violence shelter open and diverting $50 million to support for victims of domestic violence and gender based violence. Scottish government has announced an aid with 1.35 million Euros over 6 months from its communities fund to help those at risk of domestic violence.

CONCLUSION

At the time of this pandemic, communities need to unite together to fight this deadly virus. Without strong action to tackle domestic abuse and no support to the aforementioned victims during the pandemic will force the society to deal with the devastating consequences for a generation. According to a report by UNICEF, at least one in every three women globally has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way, most often by someone she knows, including her husband or another male family member. In the words of La Toya Jackson, “It doesn’t matter how rich or poor a person is, what gender or social class, or how much fame or education she possesses. Verbal, mental, and physical abuse can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what a woman’s ethnicity is because the only distinguishing color of abuse is black-and-blue.”

REFRENCES

[1] ‘Violence against women’, WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION, <https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women> accessed 31 May 2020.

[2] ‘Gender based violence in the time of corona’, HELEN SUZMAN FOUNDATION, <https://hsf.org.za/publications/hsf-briefs/gender-based-violence-in-the-time-of-corona> accessed 31 May 2020.

[3] ‘Domestic Violence is on the rise with Coronavirus Lockdown. The responses are missing the point’, THE INTERCEPT, <https://theintercept.com/2020/04/13/coronavirus-lockdown-domestic-violence> Accessed 31 May 2020.

[4] ‘Support for victims of domestic violence during COVID-19 outbreak’, SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT, <https://www.gov.scot/news/support-for-victims-of-domestic-violence-during-covid-19-outbreak/> Accessed 31 May 2020.

[5] ‘Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children’, UNICEF, <https://www.unicef.org/media/files/BehindClosedDoors.pdf> Accessed 31 May 2020


[1] Anna Moore, Every abuser is more volatile: the truth behind the shocking rise of domestic violence killings, The Guardian, April 22, 2020

[2]Jagriti Chandra, Covid-19 lockdown/ Rise in domestic violence, police apathy:NCW, The Hindu, April 02, 2020

[3] Lachmi Deb Roy, Domestic Violence cases Across India Swell since Coronavirus Lockdown, OUTLOOK, (April 07, 2020), https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-rise-in-domestic-violence-across-all-strata-of-society-in-the-coronavirus-lockdown-period/350249

[4] Uzmi Athar, Govt. helpline receives 92000 calls on abuse and violence in 11 days, THE WEEK, (April 08, 2020, 19:23 PM), https://www.theweek.in/wire-updates/national/2020/04/08/del120-lockdown-ld-child-abuse.html

[5] Liz Ford, Calamitous: domestic violence set to soar by 20% during global lockdown, The Guardian, April 28 2020.

[6] Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, section 498 cl A

[7] Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, section 304 cl B

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