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Cases of domestic violence rising, being reported from across India during lockdown: Population Foundation of India

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As most Indians remain homebound during lockdown, chances of violence not only increase but women become more vulnerable to physical, mental harm

Population Foundation of India has raised serious concerns over the growing number of cases of domestic violence that are being reported from across the country during the current lockdown. As most Indians remain homebound during the lockdown, chances of violence not only increase but women become more vulnerable to physical and mental harm.

These concerns need to be further highlighted with the Delhi High Court directive to the Centre to deliberate on measures to curb domestic violence and protect the victims. The Court has directed the Centre and Delhi Government to take quick decisions within a period of three days and implement steps to protect the victims with immediate effect.

Important Details

  • Petition filed by NGO, All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice in the Delhi High Court says helplines across the country have received 92,000 calls reporting domestic violence and abuse in the first 11 days of the lockdown
  • Ministry of Child & Women Development told the Delhi High Court that the number of complaints has gone down during the lockdown period as per their data. But were quick to add that it could be because of the presence of abusers around the victim
  • National Commission for Women (as of April 17) said that it had reported 587 cases of domestic violence between March 23r – April 16 – a significant surge from the 396 complaints they had received in the previous 25 days
  • 52 helplines have been started across the country where victims of domestic violence / abuse can call for help. These are being run by police, NGOs and women welfare departments; according to a Health Ministry official (as per an April 18, NDTV report)
  •  On April 6, UN Secretary-General asked for measures to address a global surge in domestic violence

Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, The Population Foundation of India stated, “As countries continue to resort to a complete lockdown and social distancing as effective measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, women across the world are at risk of not just violence but more serious harm. They are more vulnerable as they cannot step out. The WHO has already reported a surge in the instances of reported violence in China, the UK, the US, and other countries.”

The National Commission of Women (NCW) has reported a sharp increase in the number of complaints since the lockdown was announced. According to the figures provided by the commission recently, one in six new complaints of domestic violence was made over a WhatsApp number, particularly launched address complaints of gender-based violence during this time.

Going by these figures and voices provided by media reports and helplines, there is no doubt that domestic violence is taking the shape of another public health emergency. We therefore welcome the directive of the Delhi High Court asking the centre to put stringent measures in place. There is an urgent need for not just civil society and women’s organisations but also the government to step in at this point and amplify their efforts in response to women’s needs.

Living with an abusive partner also puts women’s sexual health agency at risk and only increases their vulnerability to sexual violence. Apart from ensuring better and sensitive policing and access to help, we believe that improving early access to abortion and pregnancy testing are some important steps that need to be taken to deal with this silent epidemic of domestic violence. However, there is also a huge need for not just civil society but also women to step in, in response to women’s need,” she concluded.

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