Author: K.N. PREYADHARSHNE
India being a developing country is facing a lot of obstacles in various aspects. In the recent times, India is fighting against the health issues and the economic crisis that has arisen because of the Covid 19 pandemic. “STAY HOME, STAY SAFE” has become the chant of every human being. But the biggest doubt is that whether home is a safe place for everyone? Definitely NOT! The report released by the National Commission for Women (NCW) is the reason for this negative answer. Irrespective of any kind of situation, women are always exposed to domestic violence. Especially, the COVID 19 has enhanced the rate of crimes and domestic violence against women.
WHAT DOES THE DATA SAY?
The thing to be noted is that, in the period between March 25, 2020 and May 31, 2020, nearly 1477 complaints were filed by women who were all the victims of domestic violence. The shocking truth is that this period recorded the highest number of cases when compared to complaints received between March and May in the previous ten years. It is important to notice that in the same period a nation-wide lockdown was enforced. People were forced to stay home. This evidences that even home does not offer sufficient safety to women.
The most terrible fact is that around 86% of women who experienced domestic violence never sought help from anyone. 77% of them do not even put a word about their pain even to their dear ones.
Even today the number of women who are exposed to the external world is very little. Many women are not even aware of the law and other authorities who are always there to serve women. This fact is also reflected in the data. Out of 14.3% of the victims who sought for some remedy, only 7% of them were able to reach out the right authorities. More than 90% of women only relied on their own family members to help them resolve the issues. They always hesitate to look up for police, NGOs, lawyers and other appropriate authorities.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HAS ALSO BECOME A PANDEMIC!
According to United Nations Organizations, one third of women are abused by their own partner especially during the covid 19 pandemic period. Because the pandemic every women are struck in their homes and exploited by their families. They are pressurized for the economic instability and the restrictions imposed to stay only in home.
After the pandemic began, in Argentina the emergency calls of domestic violence against women has elevated to more than 25 percent. In Singapore and Cyprus the helpline call has been registered more than 30 percent when compared to earlier cases. Even in USA, both mental and physical abuse against women has drastically increased during the pandemic.
Taking into consideration the tremendous rise in the cases of domestic violence against women, the United Nations Secretary General – Antonio Guterres has invited all the nations to give importance to women suffering domestic violence as the rate of domestic violence has extremely increased.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women said: “Even before the pandemic, violence against women was one of the most widespread violations of human rights. Since lockdown restrictions, domestic violence has multiplied, spreading across the world in a shadow pandemic. This is a critical time for action, from prioritizing essential services like shelter and support for women survivors, to providing the economic support and stimulus packages needed for broader recovery”.
LEGAL AIDS TO THE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:
Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act) always comes to rescue those women who are the victims of domestic violence. This act prohibits all forms of abuse against women – whether it may be physical, mental, emotional or even economical. The peculiarity of the Act is that it safeguards not only married women but also women who are in a live-in relationship. This act allows women to be free and provides them with a variety options. She cannot be thrown out of the matrimonial house, if she opts to stay there. She can also seek for an order of protection against her husband and his family members, who abuse her. She can claim the custody of her children, ask for compensation, and also she can demand for maintenance from her matrimonial home.
Under Domestic Violence act, 2005 as well as under section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, even if a wife has not divorced her husband she is entitled to claim maintenance.
Another most important section in favor of women is sec 498A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) that punishes the husband and his relatives, if they harass a woman demanding dowry. Again harassment may be physical or mental. Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 the practice of dowry itself is prohibited. In spite of that, if dowry is taken by the husband’s family, it is only the woman who is entitled to the money and the property and not her husband and his family.
The National Commission for Women has been established only for the sake of women. The Commission has numerous helpline numbers to support the women in distress, provides legal aid and counseling for women suffering reproductive issues.
During this pandemic, the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) has come forward to help women to put an end to domestic violence. It has joined hands with Mother Diary Booths, chemists and pharmacists in Delhi to provide the information on the victims of domestic violence and also it has introduced an app to provide appropriate legal aid to those victims of domestic violence.
In this situation, as it is not possible for women to go out of their home, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has come up with idea of providing online legal assistance services to women. The service will be offered by a panel of women lawyers in each district as they will aid the victims of domestic violence and child abuse.
DOES EVERY WOMAN UTILIZE THE LAW PROPERLY?
Though there are abundant laws to protect women, there are always practical difficulties that prevent women from resorting to the right remedy. Maybe if a woman wants to complain against her mother-in-law who demands dowry from her under sec 498A IPC, the police officer may refuse to take the complaint because of some reasons. It is also important to note that the conviction rate in domestic violence cases is very poor. Ultimately, a woman looses the faith in law.
Many of the victims because of such factors do not prefer the legal remedies to their issue.
STEPS TO BE TAKEN TO PREVENT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN:
The highest probability of woman being harassed within her family is by her husband. First of all this should be curbed. Though laws are necessary for the security of women, the society in which she lives should support her. But the society is always a hindrance in allowing a woman to open up the abuses that she is going through. A woman is always afraid that whether should would be criticized if she manifests her problem.
The report of the survey conducted in 2015-16 by the National Family Health Survey is extremely shocking. The men have evinced and declared that they would abuse or even beat their wife if she leaves outside without informing him, refuses to take care of their children or house, argues with him, declines for sexual intercourse with him, abstains from cooking food, or even when the husband suspects the wife to be disrespectful to her in-laws. The survey further points out that around 17.1% of men consider it their right to get angry and thrash his wife if she refuses for sexual intercourse. This attitude of men does not seem to change at all.
The next big problem lies with our society. Nobody in our society is convinced to treat women on par with men. There are always different rules for men and women. Many perceive that though men abuse women, the fault lies only with women. This is the main reason why women are always petrified to speak up their problems. So most importantly, even if many are not matured enough to understand a woman’s problem, at least her natal family members and her dear friends should be there to help her come out of the violence. These days, women have earned the courage to talk against those abusers. For those who hesitate taking the issue to the appropriate authorities, least her family members and friends should be the cure. A woman should never be isolated from her natal home; the bond helps the woman overcome her problems.
As already mentioned, the best remedy to help a woman defeat her issues is, when her dear ones like her parents or friends create a comfortable space for her to deal with the mental trauma. This threatens and prevents the abusers from further exploiting her. Further, if the following actions are taken, then it strongly helps the women conquer all her difficulties.
The laws in favor of women should be in simple terms and should be the support system for women.
The central and state governments should take appropriate measures to establish local centers to assist and counsel women who are subjected to domestic violence.
Those centers should connect the victims to appropriate authorities like doctors, advocates and NGOs.
Women need immense courage and support to break the silence. That grit and guts comes from the family and dear ones who should always render hands to the victim. Gradually, women will realize their real power and emerge as substantial power.