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Tuesday, Nov 10, 2020 11:30 [IST]

Last Update: Tuesday, Nov 10, 2020 05:47 [IST]

Shadow Pandemic

One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation.

Before the pandemic 243 million women and girls, aged 15-49 experienced sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner in the past year. Since the pandemic, violence against women, especially domestic violence has intensified.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified.

With a rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across the world in the past few months, several international organisations took cognisance of a global rise in domestic violence cases as a result of physical distancing regulations and its subsequent lockdowns. Many countries reported a 15-30% hike in the number of distress calls received from women who were confined in closed spaces with abusive partners.

Studies, over the years, have shown a direct link between times of crisis like these and interpersonal violence. Pandemics provide for an enabling environment of fear and uncertainty that may exacerbate diverse forms of violence against women. Moreover, economic insecurity, financial instability, and isolation are also some of the factors that contribute to making domestic violence even more prevalent.

Unfortunately, domestic violence cases are underreported across the world, especially in times of global emergencies like Covid-19.

Women worldwide consider informal channels as their first point-of-reporting in the case of domestic violence. The first respondent is often the family and the police the last. In India, the National Family Health Survey-4, conducted in 2015-16, revealed that 33% of married women in the age group of 15-49 experienced physical, sexual, or emotional spousal violence. Of these women, only 14% sought help and 77% never spoke about it. Among those who sought help, 65% reported to the natal family and only 3% reported to the police.

The grasp of domestic violence perpetrators has tightened in times of the pandemic in India. Abuse victims are distanced from their regular support systems making it difficult for them to call out for help. On 24 March 2020, the Prime Minister NarendraModi announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the Novel Coronavirus. Within a fortnight, the National Commission of Women (NCW) reported a 100% rise in complaints of domestic violence cases. A nationwide WhatsApp number was then launched by the NCW to provide an alternate method for women to report domestic abuse.

This is the Shadow Pandemic growing amidst the Covid-19 crisis and we need a global collective effort to stop it. As Covid-19 cases continue to strain health services, essential services, such as domestic violence shelters and helplines, have reached capacity. While the nationwide restrictions have been relaxed, various state and district level lockdowns are invoked every now and then, allowing the pandemic of domestic violence to sprout alongside. We must not count violence against women as an inevitable outcome of a crisis but improve the otherwise delayed policy implications to address the situation. More needs to be done to prioritize addressing violence against women in Covid-19 response and recovery efforts.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi