Context: With the COVID-19 epidemic, there is an escalation in the risk millions face from domestic and gender-based violence.

More on news:

  • Economies, institutions and social welfare sectors continue to buckle under the strain of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic crisis. 
    • In addition to this there is a dangerous escalation in the risk to the millions of people caught in the clutches of domestic and gender-based violence.
  • Emerging evidence on the impact of essential lockdown measures and the economic fallout of the pandemic on gender-based and domestic violence, paints a frightening picture.
  • The crisis has led to an alarming escalation of violence in the home, with women bearing the brunt of the frustration and anger. 
    • Surging numbers of emergency calls to helplines with rises of anything between 25% and 300%, dramatic increases in Internet searches for support for those affected by domestic violence, and higher numbers of domestic homicides.
    • Research from the Commonwealth project, The Economic Cost of Violence against Women and Girls: A Study of the Seychelles, carried out in 2019 before the pandemic, shows that gender-based violence leads to estimated costs of 4.625% of GDP.

Reasons for increase in gender based violence:

  • Experience teaches us that women tend often to be at a disadvantage during crises, epidemics and now this pandemic, and that domestic violence tends to increase. 
    • A total of 800 complaints were received by NCW of various crimes committed against women, the NCW data showed.
    • In West Africa, 60% of total deaths in the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak were women. Following the Canterbury earthquake in New Zealand, there was a 53% rise in domestic violence.
  • This is because gender roles and harmful practices, including customs such as early and forced marriage, limit women’s access to health services. 
    • Women do three times as much unpaid care work at home compared to men, and make up 70% of workers in the health and social care sectors. They are directly in the infection's path.


  • During the present COVID-19 pandemic, mass school closures are tending to entrench learning gaps between girls and boys, and putting many more girls at risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and early or forced marriage. 
  • Children are unable to report abuse to a trusted teacher. 
  • Many victims may find themselves trapped and feeling abandoned:with restrictions on home visits by police and health workers, violence shelters being converted into health facilities, and courts being forced to close.

Way ahead:

  • Commonwealth Secretariat is working alongside partner organisations on measures which will help our 54 member countries to stem the rising tide of gender based violence.
  • In meetings with counterpart organisations such as the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, the Pacific Islands Forum, the Council of Europe and the Community of Spanish Language Countries, explored collaboration and mechanisms to ensure that women are at the centre of post-COVID-19 recovery planning. 
  • Evidence points to a clear link between weak health systems and vulnerabilities to domestic violence: So urgent action needs to be taken to ensure that during this COVID-19 pandemic, victims of abuse are able to access the health care they need, including mental health services.
  • Dedicated funding and support for micro, small and medium sized businesses and the informal sector, which are predominantly led by women many of whom need the assurance of financial independence to escape from dangerous domestic situations.

NCW: National Commission for Women

The National Commission for Women was set up as statutory body in January 1992 under the to :

  • Review the Constitutional and Legal safeguards for women ;
  • Recommend remedial legislative measures ;
  • Facilitate redressal of grievances and
  • Advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women.

Vision: The Indian Woman, secure in her home and outside, fully empowered to access all her rights and entitlements, with the opportunity to contribute equally in all walks of life.