COVID-19: India’s Response to Domestic Violence Needs Rethinking
Nigam Shalu (2020) COVID-19: India's Response to Domestic Violence Needs Rethinking, South Asia Journal
8 Pages Posted: 13 May 2020 Last revised: 15 May 2020
Date Written: May 12, 2020
COVID-19 is posing challenges larger challenges in terms of human rights including health rights of women and children. Since the mandatory lockdown has been imposed, violence against women is exponentially rising world over. Several countries have enacted special policies, laws and programs to deal with violence against women in homes.
However, India which since the 90s has witnessed widening inequalities since the policy of Liberalization, Globalization and Privatization has been introduced, right now is again facing the disastrous impact due to coronavirus. The pandemic is making adverse gender impact in two ways – 1) Middle- or upper-class women facing abuse in homes during the lockdown and 2) Poor women who have no homes or are surviving in slums or those on the roads walking back home or those awaiting in villages for migrant men to come back.
The National Commission for Women has reported a rise of 94 percent in complaint cases where women have been abused in their homes during lockdown. Also, another aspect that has not received attention is increasing number of cases where migrant women, along with men, are walking hundreds of miles, some in their advanced stage of pregnancy along with their children, without food. Some are being forced to deliver babies on the roadside while others are receiving devastating news of migrant men being dead while walking on roads. Deprivation and denial of health and other services to women and children during the COVID crisis is aggravating the disaster.
Therefore, almost half a billion women are at risk in India due to the pandemic. Yet, the state has not made any comprehensive COVID response plan to tackle these challenges. Neither any formal statement is being issued to declare domestic violence as an essential service nor plans have been made to support pregnant women workers walking hundreds of miles without food and water with their children. Rather, the state after 40 days of lockdown, while easing down the restrictions, opened the liquor shops as a first step. In doing so, earning revenue is prioritized over genuine serious concerns of women. This is despite of the fact that the women’s movement has shown evidences that consumption of liquor by men is proportional to increase in incidences of abuse.
This essay investigates the gaps in the state’s response in India to the increase in incidents of violence during the lockdown and argues that a robust comprehensive plan is required to address different aspects of violence women are facing in the largest democracy. The government cannot miss the chance to protect women from violence. In order to imagine a gender just violence free world, the need is to impose the lockdown on the collective imagination that reiterate gender stereotypical notions and to put the viruses of patriarchy and poverty in quarantine and isolation forever. By maintaining social distancing with the misogynist ideas and developing a plan to eliminate inequalities in all forms, gender justice and human rights could be achieved and the rights guaranteed under the Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution can be reclaimed.
Keywords: domestic violence, COVID, coronavirus, lockdown, poor women, migrant women workers, abuse, human rights, gender rights
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation