Stay Home, Stay Safe. Such life-assuring statements gained traction and became a common parlance for us all. But for others, especially women, it insinuates to endure the nagging pressure from their perpetrators. A non-governmental organization working for women empowerment, compiled and released a report about the domestic violence that was exacerbated due to the lockdown in 2020. The 56 page report namely,"Grappling with the shadow Pandemic: Women's Groups and Domestic Violence in India" affirms all the societal ills that it's victims struggle with and to provide a slew of solutions for the government to thwart any such similar situations from arising in the future.
Like almost everyone across India, women too lost their jobs, got separated from their near and dear ones, saw their salaries getting slashed due to the imposition of the harum-scarum lockdown. But what one could not foresee was the tremendous amount of burden on the shoulders of women with increasing household work amid the nagging demands from their family members; the corollary of which resulted in domestic violence.
Stories from the report suggest that domestic violence ranged from verbal abuse to the diabolical physical and sexual abuse. Domestic Violence was also witnessed in some transgender and Dalit communities.
The report is meticulous, directive and proffers a blueprint to effectively approach such sensitive problems and to expunge them along their roots.
It all started in the benign form of emotional overload initially, when frustration levels reached a new high due to being cooped up within the four walls;all the pent-up emotions being released upon women. Such was women's desperation that they could not reach for help. The North-East Network, a women's organisation from Northeast India remarks that 'The pandemic has rebuilt itself on the existing inequalities. There has always been a social bias and the pandemic reinvented, rebuilt on such biases resulting in double trouble for women'.
In some cases, the active field workers and activists could not contact many of those who were facing any such problems due to the unavailability of resources. Some did not even possess a mobile phone of their own. Even those who possessed them were petrified to talk about their problems openly because of the spectre of their perpetrators looming large and the apprehension of being abandoned by their family members.
Calling domestic violence a 'parallel pandemic', the report says: 'The UN Women compiled data from different parts of the world during the pandemic. Around 243 million women and girls between the ages 15-49 years bore the brunt of violence in 2020.
All such factual data is further established and invigorated by the anecdotal evidence surfacing from the ground. According to the National Commission for Women(NCW), there was a 2.5 times increase in cases of domestic violence registered between February 27 and May 31. In the period between April and May, of all the cases registered, almost 47.2 percent cases were of domestic violence. In some places, some local organisations were created to help women to escape from such menacing threats. Wards and shelters sprawled up but the admission in them was a complicated process owing to the covid scare all over the place. Several SOPs and modus operandi followed by various organisations to some extent did a positive job in mitigating such problems, albeit only after some damage had been inflicted.
The report opens up about the litany of encumbrances that women and other sections are facing almost on a daily basis which often are overlooked by one and all. The report also provides a blueprint and guidelines for states and the centre to fall back on in order to defang such ills. Such sensitive issues require concerted efforts, state intervention and collaboration among the various sinews of the civil society to mark a significant change. Departments, the likes of ASHA workers could be mobilized to play a more responsible role in order to ensure the basic rights of women are protected.
Basic amenities and avenues must be available to the victims and survivors at ease by creating protocols and allocating space for women to discuss such issues in space of proper redresell in case needed. A joint public participation is also a prerequisite for creating a social order beneficial to everyone one. It's in this spirit that we say, 'we need to prepare today, to hope for a better tomorrow'.