The global contagion of COVID-19 has brought the world to take shelter at home. To flatten the curve of the rising pandemic, people are advised to stay at home as “ Home is the safest place to fight the virus.” Well, this has posed a new challenge to the Women, many of whom have encountered domestic abuses in their homes. The closures of the courtroom, counseling centres have brought up new challenges for the victims at the hands of their domestic abusers.
As the world is under lockdown to fight the virus, this has posed a bigger challenge for the women worldwide to fight the virus at home. While countries like the United States of America, Canada, Argentine, France, Singapore, United Kingdom have witnessed an increase for distress calls owing to the lockdown at home, India is no exception. The intensity in the escalation of violence at the hands of the abusers at home has spiralled. The strain created by the loss of jobs, insecurity of income, health, unpaid home loans have placed the women in a vulnerable position as it has triggered their partners to inflict more violence on the woman and children in the house. The quarantine has posed a threat to those who were in an abusive relationship. The isolation from friends and family have unleashed more violence and fear of survival perpetrate by physical and verbal abuse.
Domestic violence against women is condemned worldwide as a gross violation of Human rights. Every year millions of cases are reported for domestic abuse at the hands of the partner. With the lockdown of the world, there are numerous cases of domestic abuse reported from across the world, affecting the mental, physical, psychological effects on women. Addressing the rise of domestic violence case, Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General United Nations, called for “ceasefire” for domestic violence in his address to the nations and urged the governments of the states to secure and prioritise women’s safety at home during the pandemic.
Despite, the calls for providing security to the women, extending the provision of human rights to ensure their security, the scale of reporting and addressing the distress call varies from country to country. While developed nations like USA, Australia, UK have established hotlines to provide legal assistance and counselling, developing nations like India, the plight of women at the hands of the abusers present a dismal picture. Many women working as migrants workers who are spending their days in isolation in shelter homes or locked behind the walls of their homes have no access to the helpline. The data analysed by the National Commission for Women have seen a sharp increase in the cases of violence. When connectedness is vital to ensure women’s safety, the lockdown has come as the biggest impediment to their security in their vulnerable homes. Domestic violence attributes to exercising control over the sexual, emotional and physical health. During the period of quarantine, lack of opportunities and with no revenue to generate income and perceived feeling of frustration and powerlessness, the resort to aggressive forms of control over women possibly intensifies. Also, the gendered roles of the Indian society place the women in a vulnerable situation during the lockdown. The subornation of women in the power relations of the Indian society in the context of the patriarchal norms in delineating the household chores to the women puts her in a vulnerable position if she fails to comply to it particularly if a woman is locked inside with abusing partner and in-laws.
How far is the global community responsive to the abuses inflicted upon the women during the global pandemic? The economy of the world is on the verge of collapse, job insecurity, the spectre of unemployment looming, food crisis over the world have cast a dark shadow on the existence of the humankind. We are often hearing that Mother Earth is healing, but mothers and women quarantined at home are suffering more abuse. There is healing to reduce their pain, to address their cries locked inside the walls of the house.
The international global forum passed laws and conventions like the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, Millennium Development Goal3 for the protection of the women globally. However, the conventions and the laws are far from being put into practice, particularly amidst the crisis. This evident from the spike in cases in Turkey, Kosovo, signatories to the Council of Europe treaty. The treaty was ratified to combat violence against women, however, during the pandemic, both the countries have seen a spike in the number of cases. In the USA, despite hotlines set up for the victims, and efforts were undertaken by the Organisation of American States to address the problem, the USA has seen an increase in abuse against women. Canada has opened shelter homes for the victims of abuse and violence. UK, France, Australia have raised funds to support the victims and providing temporary housing facilities. Concerning India, despite the United Nations conventions to eliminate violence against the women and enaction of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA or Domestic Violence Act) in 2005, there is a surge in domestic violence. Before the crisis, women in India rarely turn to government authorities like police or have access to hotlines. With the lockdown, the women the lockdown has added woes to the battered women. The government has failed to provide necessary measures to address the problems of the victims of lockdown.
The worldwide lockdown to flatten the curve of the pandemic have engulfed the women with fear of survival. To many, the virus( the abuser) at home is more life-threatening than the virus outside due to severed ties of much supportive organisation, shelter homes and social services. With the economic downturn, many organisation working for domestic victims suffer funds backlash.
With “ stay at home, stay secure” forms the rallying cry as a necessary measure to flatten the pandemic curve, home no longer is a haven for the women victims of abuse and harassment. Further, it has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities.
The global pandemic has emerged as a significant economic and emotional shock to the world. During this hour of crisis, lockdown comes as a significant challenger to our values and humanitarian concerns. Women face an unprecedented challenge amidst the legally mandated lockdown. The United Nations is promoting and providing humanitarian support by prioritising women’s safety and security amidst the global crisis. The United Nations have appealed to the governments of various nations to enlist their support in setting up monitoring services and online support, overcoming the barriers of pandemic remains a challenge for the battered women.