PANDEMIC AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Author: Shreya Kak, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala, Punjab
One of the most horrific incidents over decades has been the COVID – 19 pandemic. Countries all over the world were affected by the pandemic which occurred in two waves carrying different variants of the virus. It forced various countries to impose restrictions on the movement of people as a measure to fight this disease. Due to several restrictions being imposed and the stay- in- home regulations had been carried out; it gave rise to people staying more at home rather than interacting with the outside world. COVID-19 has affected societies in numerous ways considering the economic and social crisis faced by the people.[i]One of the most alarming effects of this pandemic was the rise in cases of domestic violence in numerous countries including India. It has been said that COVID – 19 pandemic particularly has resulted an increase in cases of domestic violence as a sudden rise of cases has been reported to many helpline numbers and many even go unreported. This paper discusses the possible reasons behind an increase in cases of domestic violence in the times of pandemic and also suggests possible measures to reduce the negative effects of COVID – 19 pandemic for the society and people.
MAIN REASONS FOR AN INCREASE IN CASES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN PAMDEMIC
One of the possible reasons for the rise in cases of domestic violence in times of COVID-19 pandemic could be the fact that people are forced to stay with their families in their homes due to the regulations imposed by the government to combat this pandemic. It has been understood by many sociologists that whenever family members spend more time together then its human tendency to have more violence and domestic violence as a result of it. With more people spending most of their times at their homes, they are deprived of physical and social interactions and it has been noted in various researches that social isolation is one of a major tool used by abusers of domestic violence to distant the victim from any social help or support. [ii]Another factor contributing to increased cases of this kind of violence could be the fact that COVID – 19 pandemic has caused many members of the family to go jobless and deprived of any source of economic benefit. Due to the economic crisis faced by many people, there had been great level of frustration which led to more disturbances between the family members hence giving rising to the opportunity of domestic violence to be faced by the victim. In addition to this, a change in responsibilities could also be a reason for rise in cases of domestic violence as a shift in responsibilities provides a platform for the abuser to harass their partner to a greater extent. Also, another reason for sudden increase in cases of domestic violence in times of pandemic could be that the partners are forced to spend more time with each other which might lead to discovery of new habits that might have been avoided or hidden till now giving rise to more controversies and henceforth violence by the abusive partner.[iii]
Most of the cases of domestic violence which occurred in times of COVID-19 pandemic were not even reported considering that the policies imposed to combat the disease led to abusers controlling the social networking of the victimized partner which did not provide any source or platform for the victims to report the crime suffered by them. Usually, domestic violence cases go unreported in countries like India considering many factors like the respect of the family and COVID-19 pandemic surged for an increase in cases going unreported in the country. As a result of the pandemic, not only the partners suffer from their abusive partner but children and elderly people of the family are also affected and face such hardships. The abusive member of the family does make other members of the family suffer from violent acts which have been aggregated with the sudden regulations for all members of the family to spend most of the time in a single roof amongst each other. Also, even if the children and other members of the family are not affected directly yet they may be victimized mentally with the act being held between their family members. One of the factors which is considered important in cases of domestic violence is the support of co-workers or colleagues but this could not have been accomplished in the time of global crisis pandemic like COVID – 19 as work from home was introduced in all workplaces across the globe. Even after considering all the factors, it has been noted that the major portion of the population that has been affected by COVID – 19 pandemic are the lower strands of the society and people belonging to weaker section of the society. Most of the cases of domestic violence have been faced by women belonging to these sections of the society as they have been affected economically and socially to a greater extend depriving their access to governmental help or any other source of helpline. Most importantly, the cases of domestic violence in times of pandemic may result in loss of potential workforce for the betterment of economy of the country due to mental and physical abuse being faced by the victims.[iv]Thus, it can be made clear that domestic violence in times of global pandemic like that in COVID – 19 pandemic results in social and economic crisis for the whole world. To combat the consequences faced by the victims of domestic violence held in times of COVID – 19 pandemic, proper strategies need to be implemented.
STRATEGIES TO COMBAT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN SITUATIONS OF GLOBAL PANDEMIC
In various recent reports, varied measures to tackle domestic violence cases in times of COVID – 19 pandemic have been suggested. But accordingly, the very first step should be improving the reporting conditions of domestic violence cases. Most of the domestic violence cases go unreported and this is more problematic in times of COVID – 19 pandemic as the abuser stays with the victim at all times of the day refraining the victims to have a platform to report the abuse faced by them. The effective group of people who can help combat this sort of violence in such global pandemic crisis are the neighbours, community members, etc. A possible solution to tackle this problem could be to educate the neighbours and other community members about domestic violence and their roles in such cases. This awareness could be made by government agencies or through advertising promoting the neighbours to report such cases happening in their neighbourhoods. [v]
Also, various online helpline services could be provided which might be trustworthy for the victim as well so that they feel that desired help might be provided to them. If victims of domestic violence are not able to receive any help even after posting the complaint to respective helplines services or online then essential services places like hospitals or grocery shops could be encouraged to provide a platform to these victims and act as an agent to report the said domestic violence case to the concerned authorities. If reporting the crime is the first step in dealing with such acts then the next step should be to ensure the speed at which action might be taken against the abuser since reporting the crime does not liberate the victim from the continued violence faced by the them. This is especially important in times of COVID – 19 pandemic as a delay in arresting the culprit might lead to the victimisation of the abused partner for a much longer time due to lockdown and social distancing measures implemented. Keeping in mind the speedy delivery of an arrest to happen might need more resources and funds to be generated for the cause by the government organisations so that an early response as to the time period of an arrest that is bound to happen for the crime so reported could be delivered to the victim or the neighbours. The time duration for the arrest of an offender should be notified to the victims so that they are guaranteed that legal help will be provided to them. Many cases go unreported as the victims fear that involvement of police or law might harm their reputation or status which should be tackled by attempting to reduce the effects of domestic violence through various friend groups or self-help groups. [vi]
It is important for the world as a whole to understand that the most suffered sections of the society in times of COVID – 19 pandemic in general and domestic violence in particular are the backward or economically weaker sections of the society. Special governmental policies and helpline centres or organisations should be imposed for them. Various nation-wide campaigns should be done to educate the people of the country about the domestic violence and people belonging to rural and backward sections should be encouraged to indulge themselves in such educational campaigns and report any such sort of violence which they might be aware of in their family or neighbourhoods. Another community which might be affected the most in times of COVID – 19 pandemic is the migrant community who migrated to different places in pandemic time. They face multiple sorts of discriminations and have lack of job opportunities which might lead them to become vulnerable to such abuses. Another group of people who are vulnerable to be a victim of this abuse in times of COVID – 19 pandemic are people having severe illness problems. It is essential for the policymakers to provide special attention to people belonging to such communities. They should be educated about them belonging to these communities and special attention will be provided to them and isolation or adequate care should be given to them. Another initiative could be by establishing a digitalised monitorisation of the citizens of the country so as to be informed about any such case relating to domestic violence which might be suspected and it can be activated with an SOS system which might be useful for victim or complainants to report any case of domestic violence. Even though digital monitoring may sound like a costly investment but will give long term benefits for the welfare of the nation to combat such practices of domestic violence.One of the strategies that could be implemented is improvising on economic and psychological well – being as one of the basic reasons for domestic violence is lack of economic welfare of the victim. [vii]
COVID – 19 pandemic or any global crisis usually results in a constraint in the economic and social security of the country which eventually leads to rise in major crimes and cases in the society including domestic violence. COVID – 19 pandemic made victims who were most vulnerableto be trapped in such violent acts by their partners or family members considering the point that the pandemic forced people to stay at their homes and spend major part of their times with their family members resulting in more violence to be generated. It has been found out that increase in cases of domestic violence has been a result of stay – at – home orders and social distancing policies implemented by governments in various nations across the globe. Moreover, these domestic violence cases are leading to social and economic crisis due to the severity of crime committed and hampering the productivity of workforce of a nation. Various initiatives and resources are needed to drive the strategies to combat cases of domestic violence in times of a global pandemic keeping in mind the financial hardships faced by individuals in such situations. It was never imagined or predicted by anyone for the world to face any such global pandemic crisis which might result an increase in cases of domestic violence. It is time for the policymakers, governmental organisations, law enforcement organisations, government and the people to frame an effective strategy to fight the rise in cases of domestic violence due to COVID – 19 pandemic and implement the strategies to reach at a result.
[i]Business Insider. 2021. A third of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown — here's our constantly updated list of countries and restrictions. [online] Available at: https://www.businessinsider.in/international/news/a-third-of-the-global-population-is-on-coronavirus-lockdown-x2014-hereaposs-our-constantly-updated-list-of-countries-and-restrictions/slidelist/75208623.cms [Accessed 15thApril 2022]. [ii]Bonomi AE, Trabert B, Anderson ML, Kernic MA, Holt VL. Intimate partner violence and neighborhood income: A longitudinal analysis. Violence Against Women. 2014;20(1):42–58 [iii]India Development Review. 2021. The link between lockdown, COVID-19, and domestic violence - India Development Review. [online] Available at: https://idronline.org/the-link-between-lockdown-covid-19-and-domestic-violence/?gclid=Cj0KCQiA-K2MBhC-ARIsAMtLKRvYd0niPVU476JhZAtb-OqzmLLZzXfoCzMuevBO-feKkZ2m6gkiWEwaAnnXEALw_wcB [Accessed 15th April 2022]. [iv]Boston University. 2021. Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on Domestic Violence. [online] Available at: https://www.bu.edu/articles/2020/covid19-impact-on-domestic-violence/ [Accessed 15th April 2022]. [v]Felson RB, Messner SF, Hoskin AW, Deane G. Reasons for reporting and not reporting domestic violence to the police. Criminology. 2002;40(3):617–648. [vi]Hopkinsmedicine.org. 2021. Coronavirus and Domestic Violence: What You Should Know. [online] Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-domestic-violence-what-you-should-know [Accessed 15th April 2022]. [vii]Amalesh Sharma and Sourav Bikash Borah, COVID – 19 and Domestic Violence: an indirect path to social and economic crisis (2020), Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7386835/#Fn1. [Accessed 15th April 2022]