Domestic abuse cases rise as COVID-19 lockdown turns into captivity for many women

Last Updated 31 March 2020, 11:13 IST

Domestic violence cases in India have increased since the March 24 lockdown with husbands venting their frustration on wives, who have no escape from their abusers, say experts. India has been under a three-week lockdown since March 24 with its 1.3 billion people instructed to stay home in view of the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed 32 lives and infected over 1,200 people in the country. The National Commission for Women (NCW), for instance, received 58 complaints from March 23 to March 30, according to data accessed by PTI.

Many of these complaints have come from north India, particularly Punjab, said NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma.

"The number has increased. Men are frustrated sitting at home and are taking out that frustration on women. This trend is especially seen in Punjab from where we have received many such complaints," Sharma told PTI.

The exact figures from the state were not immediately available. “The 58 is just complaints we have received on email. The real figure is likely to be more since the bulk of complaints come from women in the lower strata of society who send us their complaints by post,” she explained.

Among those who reached out to the NCW was a father asking for help for his daughter who he alleged is being brutally beaten by her husband at their home in Sikar, Rajasthan.

When contacted by PTI, the father said on the condition of anonymity that his son-in-law is a teacher.

His daughter hasn’t been given food since the lockdown came into effect, the father alleged.

According to Sharma, many of the women who suffer domestic abuse don’t know how to send emails and the number might increase with the addition of the complaints received through post.

The number of postal complaints will also come down due to the lockdown, Sharma said. State commissions have also reported an increase in the number of domestic abuse cases.

She urged women to try to contact police or reach out to state women commissions if they face domestic violence.

"Women feel they will not be able to reach out to us due to the lockdown but that is not so. They must try to contact police or state commissions if they are under such a situation," she said.

Women rights activists said they have also received numerous complaints of domestic violence from women since the enforcement of the lockdown.

All India Progressive Women's Association secretary and rights activist Kavita Krishnan said vulnerable women could have moved to safer places if the government had given some warning of the lockdown.

"All the women (domestic violence victims) who contacted me said had they known (about the lockdown) they would have tried to get out earlier and be at safe places," she said.

"The only thing to do is help and rescue domestic violence survivors. Their situation is worse now in the lockdown," Krishnan added.

According to Vani Subramanian, member of the women's group Saheli Trust, “captivity anyway drives people crazy and abusive situations only make it worse".

Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, said everyone is at home due to the lockdown and women are not getting courage to contact for help.

"It is not a good situation for women," Kumari said.

According to NCW data, there were 291 complaints of domestic violence (only email complaints from March 23) in March. There were 302 complaints in February and 270 in January.

(Published 31 March 2020, 11:13 IST)

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