JURIST Guest Columnists Aaditya Mootha and Rakesh Kumar, first-year law students at the National Law University in Lucknow, India, discuss spikes in domestic violence amidst global lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic...
“The lockdown is a huge downside for victims exposed relentlessly to their abusers.” -Sanya Talwar
It has been said that extenuation for violence will never end. Women have always been the worst sufferers of violence. Disasters, economic crises, and wars have all proven to be more fateful for women than men and exacerbate gender inequality. COVID-19 is no exception to that. This is not the situation of one country; many countries are facing the problem of domestic violence. A study conducted by Marianne Hester, a Bristol University Sociologist, suggests that the violence increases whenever families spend more time together.
India’s National Commission for women received an alarming 587 domestic violence complaints between March and April, a significant escalation from the 396 complaints during the month prior. The figures for other countries are also drastic. France reported a thirty-two percent rise in domestic violence during the outbreak. Domestic violence has increased threefold in China’s Hubei Province. New Zealand Police has released statistics demonstrating a twenty percent spike by the first Sunday after their lockdown started. In the US, the National Domestic Violence Hotline received 951 calls during a two-week period in March. Many US law enforcement agencies have registered a steep increase since the COVID-19 lockdowns have begun. Even U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked governments to incorporate some plans to combat domestic violence during this time.
How Are Courts and Governments Tackling Domestic Violence?
Countries are developing a proper mechanism to effectively respond to this problem. Though the conditions amidst the pandemic are different and accessibility to courts is difficult, rights for women are not dormant. We rely on the principle Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium, which means that where there is a right, there is a remedy. The courts in India are taking these matters sincerely. Recently, the Jammu and Kashmir High court took notice of the correlation between the lockdown and increased domestic abuse. The Court issued directives to the Secretary, the Department of Social Welfare, and the governments of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. The Court added that special assistance should be provided to the women and children from economically weaker communities.
In India, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) was enacted in 2005 to facilitate the protection of women from any type of violence: physical, mental, emotional, verbal, or sexual. Section 8(1) of the act, which may be beneficial during the pandemic, provides for the appointment of Protection Officers. It reads as follows:
The State govt. shall, by notification appoint such no. of protection officers in each district as it may consider necessary and shall also notify the area or area within which a Protection Officer shall exercise the powers and perform the duties conferred on him or under this Act.
Section 5 imposes a duty on police officers, protection officers, service providers or the Magistrate to inform the aggrieved person about his rights. Subsection (d) also requires women to be notified of their right to make a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
The PWDVA also specifies the duties of shelter homes. It states that the aggrieved person or the protection officers can ask the person in charge of a shelter home to provide proper shelter to a victim. Section 11(a) of the PWDVA holds the government responsible for propagating and giving publicity to the provisions of this act. These measures should be properly put into effect which can be possible only with the help of the government.
The measures taken by the governments during the COVID-19 pandemic are highly applaudable. Argentina has declared pharmacies as safe spaces for victims. The Canadian government allocated $200 million to Women and Gender Equality, Canada, to support shelter houses and various assault centers. France has carved out a unique way to help victims by providing them hotel rooms and arranging counseling services for them. Further, France will provide €1 million to anti-domestic abuse organizations. In India, the National Commission for Women has launched an alert number (+91 7217735372) for victims to call. Maximizing awareness for this number is essential. Also, non-profits may provide more support if their work is allowed under the umbrella of “essential services.” The United Nations (UN) has also urged governments to designate shelters as essential services.
These measures must be implemented immediately, otherwise, the harm from intimate terrorism will be devastating.
For more on COVID-19, see our special coverage.
Aaditya Mootha and Rakesh Kumar are first-year law student at the National Law University in Lucknow, India.
Suggested Citation: Aaditya Mootha and Rakesh Kumar, A New Crisis: Lockdown And Intimate Terrorism, JURIST – Student Commentary, May 2, 2020, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/moothaand-kumar-domestic-violence-lockdown/.
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