Domestic Violence - The Shadow Pandemic

Updated: Mar 14

(Adapting the Provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 during COVID-19)


The outbreak of the current COVID-19[1] pandemic has resulted in unforeseen circumstances and has exacerbated various existing problems. One such problem is rising cases of Domestic Violence globally including India.

The issue of Domestic Violence is related to Human Dignity. When human dignity is not venerated then such problems occur. The Constitution of India guarantees every citizen the right to live with dignity and respect.[2] Furthermore, the Judiciary has also emphasized on dignity as a crucial fundamental right in several cases. In Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT and Others,[3] it was mentioned that

The constitutional protection of human dignity requires us to acknowledge the value and worth of all individuals as members of our society.”

The notion of dignity is ordinarily associated with protecting the individual against exploitation and violation of the intrinsic rights. It is also stated in Art. 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which mentions that everybody has the right to life, liberty and security.[4]

Veneration to women has also been highlighted in a Sanskrit shloka,

Yatra naryasty pujya ramante tatra devata

(Manusmriti, Ch-3, Verse-56)

The above mentioned verse implies that where women are respected, god inhabits there, whereas where women are ill-treated, all other efforts remain futile.

People claim that they profess their religion then they should have consummate knowledge about it and must be implemented in the practicality. Empowerment of women and feminism are discussed in the academics but practically stains of patriarchy are still observed in the surrounding.

Difficulties faced by Women

India already has many pending Domestic Violence cases and it has mushroomed in the ongoing COVID-19 pestilence. The same has been notified by the National Commission of Women.[5] The victim women are now experiencing threats not only outside but also inside the houses. This problem has occurred as the result of the pandemic, the Shadow Pandemic.[6]

In situations of captivity the perpetrator becomes the most powerful person in the life of the victim, and the psychology of the victim is shaped by the actions and beliefs of the perpetrator.[7]

The above quote describes the situation of the victims of domestic violence cases. Women all over the world are facing recruitment in many different forms. The crimes against women include physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse.[8] Physical and sexual harassment have detrimental impact on the life of the women. UN Women has defined Sexual Violence as, Sexual violence is any sort of sexual act conducted against the wish of the other individual, either on both situation of not being able to give consent or when consent could not be assumed as the individual is a child, is severely intoxicated or not in a conscious state of mind due to result of alcohol or drugs or mentally incapable. [9]

It includes various unwanted practices like Female Genital Mutilation, sexual assault, marital rapes etc. Especially, the Female Genital Mutilation has adverse consequences on female reproductive health.[10] These practices of physical harassment may also result in the problem of infertility.[11]

In addition to these, victims can also suffer from various mental health difficulties which can be depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The victims undergoing genital mutilation would be more likely to develop psychiatric illnesses and assess the traumatization experienced.[12]

Adapting the provisions of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, in the present circumstances

The country has an Act[13] for the dealing with problem but the provisions of the Act fall short in this situation of predicament as the problem has been worsened due to lockdown.

Protection Officers[14] are important officials as per the Act, who serve many functions.[15] He must be provided the requisite technology for speedy proceedings and quick action. A provision of the Act mentions about the assistance that can be provided to victim by the Authorities, if the victim does not want to reside with the respondent,[16] It is a shelter home.[17] Vacant schools and educational institutions which are not functioning during the lockdown can be utilized as shelter homes for the said purpose. Government must provide some incentive to the informants when the information is brought into the notice of the Protection Officer.[18] Counselling[19] must be done through electronic means[20] for convenience of parties and the safety of all. Authorities must make the technology available for those who are unable to access it, particularly in rural areas. One of the important purposes of the Act which is speedy redressal should be achieved.

Suggestions and Conclusion

People are unaware about law in this regard. The Central and State, both the Governments have the obligation to circulate the sufficient information and awareness about the statute[21], so as the victims should not be nescient about the remedies and actions to be taken. Thus, there should be dissemination of information through means of public media which can be television, print media as well as radio. However, it is not seen in reality as the full attention is captured by COVID-19. The solution could be the utilization of the same means of media for spreading information and directions relating to both significant problems. It could result in a trade-off, but it must be planned in such a way that both the issues are taken into consideration according to the extent of their gravity. Recently, UN Women has also started an awareness program for circulating the necessary information about Domestic Violence around the world.[22]

The Government must take some appropriate initiative for victims so that they can approach authorities easily. These may include any mode of communication through which the victims can complain even from their residence.

One of the foremost problems is people are jobless and idle residing at their houses, particularly those who live in rural areas or those who are daily wage earners. It is a saying that “an idle mind is the devil's workshop” and thus, the people must be kept engaged by providing them any kind of basic and simple employment opportunity. It may include making face masks, hand gloves for precaution against the virus. Also another objective of mitigating plastic can be achieved by employing them in making fabric and paper bags. Also, the Government must try to commence some cottage industries through which household products can be produced. When any complaint is received by the authorities, the parties must be kept occupied by this kind of work, with some time limits or deadlines. As the outcome of this, cases relating to the offence can diminish gradually.

Thus, women must be meticulous pertaining to their dignity and the related rights. They should be careful about their protection from Violence inside and Virus outside.


References

[1] Ministry of Health & Family Welfare Government of India, Role of Frontline Workers in Prevention and Management of CoronaVirus, https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/PreventionandManagementofCOVID19FLWEnglish.pdf [2] India Const., art.21. [3] Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT and Others, (2009) SCC Online Del 1762. [4] G.A. Res. 217 (III) A, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec.10, 1948) Art. 3. [5]Esha Roy , Domestic violence, abuse complaints rise in coronavirus lockdown: NCW, (June 11, 2020, 11:56 AM), https://indianexpress.com/article/india/domestic-violence-abuse-complaints-rise-in-coronavirus-lockdown-ncw-6344641/. [6] Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Violence against women and girls: the shadow pandemic, (June 11, 2020, 12:08 PM), https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/4/statement-ed-phumzile-violence-against-women-during-pandemic. [7] Thomas L Underwood & Christine Edmunds, Victim Assistance: Exploring Individual Practice, Organizational Policy, And Societal Responses, 198 (2003). [8] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, § 3(a) (2005). [9]Violence against Women, UN Women (June 12, 2020, 10:24 PM), https://interactive.unwomen.org/multimedia/infographic/violenceagainstwomen/en/index.html#sexual-2. [10] Female Genital Mutilation, WHO, (June 11, 2020, 12:36 PM), https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation [11] Female genital mutilation and other harmful practices, WHO, (June 12, 2020, 11:36 PM), https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/infertility_FGM/en/ [12] Female genital mutilation and other harmful practices, WHO, (June 13, 2020, 12:36 PM), https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/mental_problems_and_fgm/en/ [13] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, No.43, Acts of Parliament, 2005(India). [14] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, § 2(n) (2005). [15] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, § 9 (2005). [16] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, § 2(q) (2005). [17] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, § 2(t) (2005). [18] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, § 4 (2005). [19] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, § 14 (2005). [20] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, § 16 (2005). [21] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, § 11 (2005). [22] Press release: UN Women raises awareness of the shadow pandemic of violence against women during COVID-19, UN Women, (June 13, 2020, 1:00 PM), https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/5/press-release-the-shadow-pandemic-of-violence-against-women-during-covid-19


Author - Likhita Agrawal

Student at Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur .

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