DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: AN INESCAPABLE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION
Author: Muskan Pipania, V year of B.A.LL.B.(H) from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow
Domestic violence can be defined in terms of mental, physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse, hence, it extends from physical hurt to emotional and economic blackmail and thus, can be considered as an infringement of women’s human rights that takes place every single day around the world, affecting a tremendous number of women in every state the world over. Worldwide, one in every three women experiences physical or sexual violence, generally by an intimate partner. While domestic violence is often treated as a private issue, the human rights framework gives an instrument to challenge this perception and reframe it as an aggregate issue that society, in general, should address.
It appears to be clear that the act of this violence establishes a breach of internationally recognized rights, for example, the right to be free from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment; the right to private and family life; and, in certain circumstances, the right to life itself. It is undoubtedly a human rights violation, which results in immediate and long-term physical, sexual, and mental devastating consequences, including death. Further, affecting women’s overall prosperity; preventing them from fully participating in society and impacting their families, their community, and the country at large.
A woman’s right to live free from violence is upheld by various international human rights protection framework which offers alternative channels through which individuals may advocate for fundamental rights, social change and institutional reform. Every state is obligated under the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man to act with “due diligence,” which further requires authorities to adopt reasonable measures to perceive and prevent any act that poses a “real and prompt” danger to the personal security of an individual. When such a risk has been identified, regardless of whether posed by an individual or by the state itself, the state has an obligation to provide effective protection, such agreements include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993; furthermore, every state has an obligation to take reasonable and effective measures in order to prevent, investigate and redress it, therefore, at least 155 countries have legislations with respect to the same, but not enough is done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it mostly goes unpunished. Challenges remain in implementing these laws, restricting women and girls’ access to safety and justice.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VIS-À-VIS COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Violence against women leads to an increase in any crisis or emergency, including epidemics. The UN has described the worldwide increase in domestic abuse as a "shadow pandemic" alongside Covid-19[i]. An increment in domestic violence was seen due to stress, security, health, disturbance of social and protective networks, increased financial hardship and decreased access to services which exacerbates tension, strains and the danger of women suffering violence accumulated by cramped and confined living conditions. For example, 30% increase in domestic violence was seen in France and Cyprus whereas 25% and 33% in Argentina and Singapore respectively[ii] since the lockdown in March, whereas, increased demand for emergency shelter was seen in Canada, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States as the government authorities, women’s rights activists and civil society partners indicated an increase in reports of domestic violence during the crisis. However, this number is likely to increase as women are still trapped at home with their abuser.
Even before COVID-19 existed, domestic violence was already one of the greatest human rights violations and statistics shows that 12 months prior to the pandemic, 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49)[iii] across the world were subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. The COVID-19 pandemic just added to the existing problem which grew with multiple impacts on their wellbeing, their health, and their ability to participate and lead in the recovery of the societies and economy.
Thus, domestic and family violence is perhaps the most common, inescapable and serious human rights violations and a genuine deterrent to development, the same has been acknowledged by The Vienna Accord of 1994, the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action (1995).
A STEP FORWARD
Un-remedied domestic violence basically denies women equality before the law, thus, the increase in violence against women should be dealt urgently with measures embedded in economic support and stimulus packages that meet the gravity and scale of the challenge and reflect the requirements of women who face multiple forms of discrimination.
One way is the use of Human rights arguments, domestic and international complaints mechanisms, to advocate for individual women and to support arguments for changes to law, policy and practice.
Moreover, Health care facilities should be updated in which the services available locally should include information on psychosocial support, counselling services, protection services, hotlines and shelters using technology-based solutions such as SMS, online tools and networks in order to expand social support and to reach every woman with no access to phones or internet.
Grassroots and women’s organizations and communities have played a critical role in preventing and responding to women in agony. Such communities helped women by supporting and giving them access to quality, multi-sectorial services essential for their safety, protection and recovery, especially for those who already suffer multiple forms of discrimination. States shall take steps in order to help and support such communities/ organizations in ways of increased funding or any other help, as the case may be.
Special consideration ought to be given to more vulnerable groups, including women living with disabilities, who are at an increased risk of domestic violence facing further barriers such as reaching the services they need. More focus shall be on early education, building respectful relationships, and working with men and boys as prevention is still the most cost-effective, long-term way to stop the violence.
Steps shall be taken towards collecting enhance data and analysis in order to provide a better understanding of the nature, gravity, and consequences of violence against women and girls, as data collection and analysis also helps to understand what works and doesn’t work to address this violence.
Domestic violence causes a huge number of victims to be mutilated and murdered and mostly national criminal laws are not adequate to put a stop to it, particularly in light of the fact that there are cultural taboos that prevent the victims to come forward. When a woman is killed, her murderer isn't the only individual to blame for her death. Her death implies that the whole system failed. And if we do not hold State authorities responsible, we won't be able to combat domestic violence or any sort of male violence against women, since we will continue to think that it is an “issue” between two or more individual citizens.
[i]Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Violence against women and girls: the shadow pandemic, UN Women (April 06, 2020), https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/4/statement-ed-phumzile-violence-against-women-during-pandemic?gclid=CjwKCAiAjeSABhAPEiwAqfxURdHsEvYb044-66baan6ko_tLaN6l5ZYZHk36mtOyFwOtkhp3WceM8BoCAkMQAvD_BwE.
[ii]Pavithra KM, Instances of Domestic Violence increase in the wake of Lockdowns across the World, Faqtly (April 18, 2020), https://factly.in/instances-of-domestic-violence-increase-in-the-wake-of-lockdowns-across-the-world/.
[iii]Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Violence against women and girls: the shadow pandemic, UN Women (April 06, 2020), https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/4/statement-ed-phumzile-violence-against-women-during-pandemic?gclid=CjwKCAiAjeSABhAPEiwAqfxURdHsEvYb044-66baan6ko_tLaN6l5ZYZHk36mtOyFwOtkhp3WceM8BoCAkMQAvD_BwE.