Context:The worldwide lockdown has not only left many face job losses, uncertainty over salaries, forced isolation; but has also caused a steep rise in violence against women.
Statistics related poor conditions of women
Findings of the National Commission for women(NCW)
- Twofold rise in gender-based violence during the first week of lockdown:
- The total complaints from women rose from 116 in the first week of March to 257 in the final week of March.
- Complaints of rape or attempted rape have risen sharply from two to 13, while cases of domestic violence have increased from 30 to 69 over the same comparative period.
- Police Apathy
- As the police are busy enforcing the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19,a threefold increase in police apathy towards women’s complaints .
- NCW has received 16 complaints on the issue as compared to six earlier.
- Complaints related to right to live with dignity:
- These complaints too have doubled, rising from 35 cases to 77.
- Such cases could pertain to discrimination on the basis of gender, class or caste or all three of them combined.
Findings of UN Women:
- According to UN Women, globally 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the previous 12 month.
- As per data compiled by the U.N. body, France has seen a 30% increase in domestic violence since the lockdown on March 17.
- In Argentina, emergency calls for domestic violence cases have increased by 25% since the lockdown on March 20.
- Canada, Germany, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. have also registered an increase in cases of domestic violence and demand for emergency shelter.
- It has called the rise in gender-based violence a shadow pandemic.
Findings of Global Health 50 50:
- It is an independent research initiative that tracks gender and health.
- It observed the gender-split in all countries is roughly 50-50, barring two exceptions: India and Pakistan.
- In a striking contrast with many countries, men in India more appear disproportionately likely to test positive for COVID- 19.
- 76% of the confirmed cases in India and 72% in Pakistan are men.
- India’s wide disparity was more likely due to sociological factors and when testing increased and more infections are detected the male-female gap would likely narrow.
Reason for Gender Based Violence:
- Immediate Reasons:
- Security, health and money worries in Lockdown will heighten tensions and strains.
- These are accentuated by cramped and confined living conditions which ultimately increases Gender Based Violence.
- The lack of access to friends, family and support organisations is expected to aggravate the situation for abused women further.
- Underlying Reasons:
- Prevalence of Patriarchy has been the root cause of persistent gender based violence in India due to which men considers themselves to be superior sex.
- Further confining women to certain stereotyped roles like wife, nurse,teacher etc.. is another testimony of they being treated as weaker sex.
- Ingrained and normalised idea that such an abused woman should not expect support from others.
- Prevalence of evil practices like Dowry, Female Foeticide etc.. show they are nothing but a burden on the family and hence are required to live under the protection of males and any defiance to their authority invites violence.
- Less Economic and Political power is withheld by them in comparison to males which automatically deteriorates their position in society and makes them susceptible to crime.
- Lack of Ethical and Moral education in the country coupled with unemployment and alcoholism leads to more violence against women.
- Men enjoy a certain degree of impunity due to the poor justice system in the country and lack of support to women from her parents after the marriage. (Statements like your Dead Body will come from your husband’s House but you can’t take a divorce)
Recent steps taken by Indian government in the reagard
- Strengthening One Stop Centres:
- To ensure that One Stop Centres, which provide legal and psycho-social help to survivors of gender-based violence, are linked with local medical teams, police and the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
- Digital Governance:
- Video conferences have been arranged recently, which included the staff members of One Stop Centres, as well as shelter homes for women in distress (Swadhar Greh, Ujjwala homes) and Working Women Hostels.
- It is to ensure safety of women which must be replicated at the State-level and with NGOs so that there is no deficit of either information or help
- Short Term Measures
- Enhancing Accessibility: Helplines, psychosocial support and online counselling should be boosted using technology-based solutions such as SMS, online tools and networks to expand social support, and also reach women with no access to phones or Internet.
- Role of Private Sector: It needs to play a critical role w.r.t to sharing information, alerting staff to the facts and the dangers of domestic violence and encouraging positive steps like sharing care responsibilities at home.
- Cash Transfers and Ration Support: This would sustain the family and also reduce stress in the household leading to lower violence against women.
- Increase advertising expenditure on such issues:Since the lockdown began, the amount of TV viewing has increased. The NCW could increase its advertising expenditure on TV to relay messages requesting women to contact the police station for help.
- Inclusion of services related to women in essential services: Considering the period of lockdown government must ensure resources to help women in distress, health services to women and abortion are included as essential services
- Long Term Measures.
- Strengthening the Justice Sysytem: Police and justice services must mobilise to ensure that incidents of violence against women and girls are given high priority with no impunity for perpetrators
- Need alternative arrangements:
- The police are not the first port of call for victims of domestic violence and, therefore, alternative arrangements have to be put in place.
- There is a need to extend monetary support to women oriented organisations in India rather than rely entirely on ASHA workers on whom the burden of community welfare is already very high.
- There is a need to acknowledge and accept that domestic violence happens and work to reduce the stigma attached to the victims of such violence
- Proactive role of NGO’s
- They need to ensure that maximum women are contacted every day so that “women know that they are not alone”
- Taking examples from other countries
- Funded relief organisations working against domestic abuse, to help them cater to the increased number of requests for help.
- Pop-up counselling centres and pay for hotel rooms for domestic violence victims.
- Assistance points at supermarkets and pharmacies.
- The government has launched a mobile app that enables domestic violence victims to seek help without making a phone call.
- It has announced grants to ensure that access to support services is maintained.
About National Commission for Women
The National Commission for Women was set up as a statutory body in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990.
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.
- 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.
It is a United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
- Women lead, participate in and benefit equally from governance systems
- Women have income security, decent work and economic autonomy
- All women and girls live a life free from all forms of violence
- Women and girls contribute to and have greater influence in building sustainable peace and resilience, and benefit equally from the prevention of natural disasters and conflicts and humanitarian action
- To support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms.
- To help Member States implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it, and to forge effective partnerships with civil society.
- To lead and coordinate the UN system’s work on gender equality, as well as promote accountability, including through regular monitoring of system-wide progress.