Article by Nabanita Baruah
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has turned upside down in terms of economic, health, political, social, and many more affairs. Lockdown in India began in March. People are struggling to cope up with this pandemic; on the other hand, a sudden surge in crimes against women can be seen. Crimes against women are not newfangled, but certainly a forgotten agenda. As per recent reports, the National Commission of Women (NCW) received 2,043 complaints of crimes against women in India, out of which 462 are of domestic violence cases. However, these complaints cannot be considered as the actual number of cases. The alarming rise in domestic violence now during lockdown has become a matter of grave concern.
RISE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DURING LOCKDOWN IN INDIA
The lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has only resulted in a lot of problems, and many concealed agendas are brought into the light. In this regard, domestic violence tops the list, which has been overlooked and sidelined all these years. Domestic violence being a serious issue is a violation of basic human rights. It highlights sexism and oppressive behavior, which are ingrained in a person, due to our patriarchal system which is still prevalent in our society. Nevertheless, both men and women can be victims of this heinous practice. As mentioned above, only some cases have been reported, but many women in our society do not come out of their cocoon and face reality. One of the many reasons is our deep-rooted values and beliefs about a particular subject, in this regard, it is marriage. In a survey of 2015-2016, just 14% of victims have sought help.
They say the 21st century is the century for women. However, if we take a deeper look into this issue, a thought comes to our mind, that is, about women whose voices go unheard. Most women in rural areas are not even aware of the term ‘domestic violence’, let alone stand against it. They do not have access to phones, and hence, cannot use the helpline numbers to seek help, nor can they approach any of their relatives, for they are trapped inside the house with the abusers. Women live in constant fear of being abused. They are subjected to a lot of health problems which cause them a great deal of pain. Deepening inequalities are being uncovered in its despicable form due to economic distress, stay at home rules, uncertainty during the lockdown. Consequently, lockdown is just a reminder for us to look into this matter thoroughly.
SOLUTIONS TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Tracing back to the 1980s, with the breakout of the rigorous feminist movements and its demands due to the rising dowry deaths and abuses, the enactment of section 498A of IPC was made possible, along with other provisions in the CrPC and Evidence Act. Section 498A IPC provides that ‘whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall be liable to fine.’ This section subjects to cruelty and it is encircled in dowry deaths and other forms of matrimonial issues of domestic violence. Furthermore, the growing cases of domestic violence sprung up the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act in 2005, which solely focuses on domestic violence in a broad sense. It is unprecedented legislation because it is the first civil law for providing protection and an attempt to exterminate gender inequality. Even with the existence of these effective laws, this issue remains unaddressed and grossly under reported.
First and foremost, the possible solution to domestic violence is to create awareness about the same in schools, colleges, slums, and rural areas, and to observe in and around our locality. Next, we must report it if we witness this practice, although there are certain instances when victims get unsympathetic responses from the police personnel and their family members. Victims are then, likely, to accept the situation. However, most victims file for divorce cases, stating cruelty by the husband. Secondly, victims must be provided with emotional, economic, medical support, and proper legal assistance. Support services must also help them become economically independent. And thirdly, proper rehabilitation is required for the offenders and habitual offenders must be dealt with strictly under the supervision of highly experienced medical professionals. Accordingly, this issue must be minutely addressed and in-depth strategies are certainly needed.
In general, violence against women becomes a public issue owing to the effect it has on society altogether. The rapid surge in cases is a reflection of our values and beliefs. The malady of gender inequality arises from our deep-rooted values and culture, and we must take a look as to how individual change is important to stop this practice, with social and political change. As a result, the abusers must be held accountable and punished strictly per the provisions of law.
Bare Act, Indian Penal Code § 498A (2019).
Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
Mohanakumar V.N, Indian Domestic Violence Law with Reference to Section 498A IPC.