In times of a world health crisis, where the lives of millions have come to a standstill amid the ongoing lock down, many people are seeking comfort and hope in the arms of their loved ones. But for numerous women across the globe an interminable lock down in their homes has become more of a threat to their lives than a safety measure.
Apart from the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, an alternate public health crisis of Domestic Violence has seen an upward surge with each new day of the lock down. Millions of women have become victims of the Domestic violence pandemic.
As a young woman, who has been raised to believe that the world is an equal playing field for both men and women alike, coming across reports of gender-based violence on an ever-increasing scale acts as a regular reminder that gender equality and the rights of women have a long way to go.
While reading about the horrifying experiences and traumas of these survivors, we can’t help but think Why? Why in a world where mankind as a species has advanced beyond the limits of the earth, do we still have a social mechanism where one gender subjugates the other to assume power and control. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action states “Violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”
The sudden spike in domestic violence cases stands as a testimony to this need for power and control. The American Psychological Association cited reduced access to resources, increased stress due to job loss or strained finances, and disconnection from social support systems as the major reasons for this increase.
In developing countries like India, alcoholism is another factor adding to the rise in cases of domestic violence and intimate terrorism. The victims of such emotional and physical violence are rendered defenseless in times of the corona virus pandemic. Helplines, shelter homes, counselling and other support forums or redressal services are not able to function as efficiently as they did before the lock down.
There is a dire need to develop a temporary course of action during the lock down to flatten the curve of this ever-increasing domestic violence pandemic. As reported by WHO there is a 60% rise in domestic violence cases from across the world, in response to which various European countries have developed applications to report violence without calling, the sale of alcohol has been restricted in certain countries and unused hotels are being converted to shelter homes for victims.
However, the roots of violence against women stretch beyond the social stratifications of class and status, in developing countries a significant percentage of the population does not have access to the internet thus many women are unable to access these services.
In case of a developing nation like India, in order to ensure that these support services are accessible to women across the confines of class and economic status, it is essential for the national government to recognize that during this perpetuating lock down, providing victims of violence with a support mechanism is a necessity. In spite of the efforts and contributions of numerous non-profit organisations working to combat violence against women, the situation of victims of different forms of gender-based violence seems grim.
Even if we manage to make it through and develop a vaccine to contain the corona virus, the cure for the age-old domestic violence pandemic wouldn’t be so simple. The entrenched misconception of women being the weaker gender in various cultures, religions, socio-economic and political frameworks across the world will have to be uprooted and challenged. Organizations and platforms such as UN Women, International Women’s Forum, Council of Women World Leaders and various such institutions act as catalysts which reinforce the rights and position of women in spheres ranging from politics and decision making to the role of women in media and environment.
As a young woman still in search of her path who prefers to view the world through her own lens of dreams and aspirations, such organisations working to strengthen and empower women from all walks of life equip us with a vision to see beyond the constraints of gender and imagine a world free from the shackles of inequality.