Domestic Violence During The Pandemic | Youth Leadership Programme

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Note: The following article has been written by Arunav Ghosh and Payal Sapui, two inquisitive minds who had joined us for the Youth Leadership Programme during the summer of 2020.

Imagine a cage, a physical barrier, and psycho-emotional solitary confinement where the walls are closing in, and you are hurt, but you don’t have anyone to say it too, and justice is delayed and often denied. You are hated, and this violence perpetrated against you is an act of hatred, against your identity, You are a woman.

Quarantine, Self-Isolation, and lockdowns brought different challenges for every individual, and communities had to adapt to mitigate the risk they faced, but suddenly many women found themselves locked in with their abuser. These measures often failed to address the rights of these women, the right to safety and dignity and often, the right to life.

Feminist scholars have discovered “that many gaps were there for a reason, i.e. that existing paradigms systematically ignore or erase the significance of women’s experiences and the organization of gender”[1]  In the last decade, violence against women has become thematized or routinized, with growing numbers of news reports which deal extensively with this issue, which offer more serious analysis and interpretation, and which seem to point towards a more strict consideration of violence against women as a social malady[2]. However, despite this marginal progress, the portrayal of Gender-Based Violence in media can be problematic when there is coverage, and sometimes Domestic Violence (Intimate Partner Violence) can be ignored in the media as well. 

During the Corona Virus pandemic, lockdowns imposed by various states failed to address the woes of its women.

How often does sexual violence occur?

  • Every Third Woman In India Suffers Sexual, Physical Violence at Home (NHFS-4).
  • 99.1% of cases of sexual assaults go unreported (Livemint data analysis of NHFS 2015-2016 survey)
    • The average Indian woman is 17 times more likely to face sexual violence from her husband than from others, the analysis shows. (It’s not monsters, it’s regular everyday men that commit such heinous crimes, very often, and very frequently. There is a problem with Indian men and Indian Society, and it’s normalized rape culture.
  • A crime against a woman is committed every three minutes, according to the National Crime Records Bureau

Almost all countries saw an upsurge in domestic violence reports, for example in India, During the first four phases of the COVID-19-related lockdown, domestic violence complaints filed by Indian women was at an all-time high. However, keeping in mind most cases of domestic violence or sexual assault are never reported, this just scratches the surface.

What can we do?

  • Advocate for the criminalization of marital rape:
    • As per current Indian law, by Exception 2 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, assumes that there is perpetual consent between a husband and a wife, this is a failure to recognize the severity of Intimate Partner Violence, and Spousal sexual assault in India.
  • Spread awareness about the relevant authorities to contact:
    • According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, there is severe underreporting of Domestic Violence cases, often victims do not know who to approach, out of 14.3% of victims who seek help, only 7% reached out to relevant authorities.

What is important to keep in mind, is that reporting Domestic Violence and sexual assault is not easy or accessible to women in most places, including India. However, that does not let us deny as a society, or live with the comfort that women are safe in the society and structures, we have created.

[1] McElhinny, Bonnie. “Theorizing gender in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology.” The handbook of language and gender (2003): 21-42.

[2] Santaemilia, José, and Sergio Maruenda. “The linguistic representation of gender violence in (written) media discourse: The term ‘woman’ in Spanish contemporary newspapers.” Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict 2.2 (2014): 249-273.

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