The Colossal Epidemic: Violence Inside, Virus Outside

The Legal Arc Volume 1 Issue 1 Articles

Muskan Kukreja

Muskan Kukreja is a student at NMIMS KPMSOL studying BBA LLB, she’s an avid reader and an occasional writer.

Introduction

“Long-Term Domestic Violence – Being abused in this manner is like being kidnapped and tortured for ransom but you will never have enough to pay off the kidnappers.”

Rebecca J. Burns

Introduction

In the ever-progressing time of today, women want to be treated equally and respectfully. In a male-dominated society, women want to be regarded as individuals with feelings, aspirations, and dreams. Unfortunately, some women fall prey to beatings, torture, and violence by their counterparts.

Domestic violence does not happen in a vacuum, i.e. it is unlike other crimes. It happens at your ‘abode’ which is a sacred place, a safe place; where you can spend your time peacefully, work, and relax. 

Amid the unfortunate condition of COVID-19, cases of domestic violence hiked up. Domestic violence does not only lead to physical injuries but more than that, i.e. emotional and mental suffering of the children in the family as well. World Health Organization’s report shows that, globally, 35.6% of women have ever experienced either non-partner sexual violence, or physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, or both. This article will cover the intricacies of domestic violence and the increasing cases amid COVID-19. Moreover, it will also cover the nexus between domestic violence and psychological theories. 

The WHO estimates that thirty-eight percent of murdered women are killed by their intimate partners, which may be an underestimate. It has been also reported that forty-two percent of the women who were either sexually or physically abused, were injured by their partners. Amid the lockdown, due to COVID-19, there has been a surge in the domestic and sexual violence cases globally. India’s National Commission for Women (NCW) reported that 587 domestic violence complaints were registered between March 23 and April 16, which was a significant surge from the 396 complaints that were observed between February 27 and March 22. Moreover, six complaints were received on the newly launched WhatsApp number.

Feminist economist, Ashwini Deshpande analyzed NCW data for March and April in 2019 and 2020. She calculated the average complaints per day and observed the hike in cases related to domestic violence, and also a smaller rise in cases related to the attempt to rape or sexual assault. 

Work and Abuse

In India, it is evident that alcohol consumption and unemployment increase the violence on women. In the current situation, women, who were the sole breadwinner of their families, also stay at home in the horrid condition. As their husbands are not getting alcohol to drink, women are being hit and sexually abused. Earlier, women could run into the narrow lanes and shout, but in the recent heart-breaking case of Chennai, a forty-five-year-old got accustomed to the beating by her husband, which only decreased when she went out to earn money. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people lost their jobs and had to stay at home which was supposed to be a safe place, but women were getting beaten. Domestic violence has not only been confined to India. Moreover, when a message service was established for hearing-impaired women, 170 complaints were daily received, which is gruesome and horrifying. 

Steps That Were Taken by Brave Women

In Spain, women facing gender prejudice is regarded as an imperative social issue. Initially, on its helpline 016, eighteen percent more calls were received during the lockdown than the usual times. Also, in France, there were many silent requests seeking help. Email contact hiked by 286% over the same period and the new psychological support messaging service via WhatsApp received 168 inquiries within its first nine days.

Mascarilla-19 (Mask-19), a campaign was launched in Spain’s Canary Islandsby the Institute for Equality, stressing that escaping abuse is a valid reason to leave your home. There are pharmacies all over where women can ask for mask-19, which is an indication that the women are being abused physically or mentally at their homes. The pharmacy staff will pen down the woman’s contact number, address, name, and alert the emergency services immediately. This campaign is Kika Fumero’s brainchild.

While speaking about her book, “No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Abuse Can Kill Us,” which is an international bestseller, Rachel Louise Snyder mentioned during her Harvard interview that the title stems from the fact that much domestic violence is “not visible to the naked eye”. She offered an example from her book of a husband who threatened to put his pet rattlesnake in his wife’s bed while she slept.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, said, “You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.”

During COVID-19, two epidemics were faced together by the women. Working women were not only burdened with their office work but their housework too. Violence against women has become a central issue. Different countries and states are taking different measures to tackle the problem. For instance, Odisha Police in India came up with an initiative wherein they will contact women who called or filed a complaint earlier. The special drive ‘Phone-Up-Program’ has been launched across the state to deal with the problems of domestic violence in the coronavirus crisis period.

The most imperative question here is what drives men to beat or torture their wives so heinously, be it emotionally, physically, or sexually?

Earlier theories of domestic violence were considered ‘private’ and ‘a family matter’ wherein nobody had a say and fewer people were aware of it. Historical theories show that alcohol, poor impulse control, and mental illness lead to such barbarous behaviour. Whereas, current theories highlight that it is done for the establishment of power, and to show superiority through different forms of coercive and brutal behaviour. 

The ‘learned helplessness theory’observes that men battered because they had learned violence from their families as children, and likewise, women sought out abusive men because they saw their mothers being abused. This is also called the “learned behaviour” theory of violence. Learned helplessness can be translated to the sense of hopelessness or resignation learned when a human or animal perceives no control over repeated bad events. Several studies found that batterers had been abused as children or they had witnessed their fathers beating their mothers. “Learned Behavior Theory”has observed that men lose control of themselves and act violently after alcohol consumption. Violence is certainly targeted for specific people at specific places as they cannot pour their anger on everyone they meet, like their friends, boss, or colleagues. As a result, they drain all their anger on their wife or sister, or some close family member with little physical and mental power.

Another theory to gain popularity was the ‘cycle of violence’. This theory was based on the belief that men did not express their frustration and anger because they had been taught not to show their feelings; a man’s tension built until he exploded and became violent. When the tension was released, the husband was apologetic and felt remorseful and the couple had their ‘honeymoon period’ like before. Concluding from all these theories, we observe that women have always suffered and fallen prey to their husband/boyfriend’s anger or frustration despite being at no fault themselves. Women who are considered as “Devi” in Indian mythology are now being beaten by these beasts, which not only affects them physically but mentally too. Domestic violence does not only violate an individual’s rights but is a social and public health concern too. It does not only involve violence by women’s husbands but by their relatives and in-laws too. Earlier, it was done for something trivial like dowry. 

Presently, in this tough time of COVID-19 when families are instructed to live indoors, domestic violence has penetrated deep into society. Women manage their work-life as well as the home maker’s life and are being treated worse than a servant. Not only women, but the impact of this can be observed on children as well. Another aspect and dark side of domestic violence is sexual violence. Sexual violence is defined as any non-consensual sexual contact between the partners, refusal to use contraception, and cause unwanted pain. Women find this aspect most difficult to talk about as it can make them think that maybe it is their fault. Moreover, the person who is doing such an act is none other than the person they loved the most once. Men see it as their ‘right’ and women as their ‘duty’.

What should be done to prevent domestic violence?

  1. Educating the boy child – Solutions to almost all the problems pave its way through education i.e. the most crucial element of a happy and flourishing society. Lately, the girl child’s education is being encouraged but has anyone ever talked about giving special EQ (emotional quotient) training to boys. They have rather been taught things like “boys don’t cry, girls do”, as a result of which they make girls cry when they attain maturity as a consequence of society’s wrong beliefs. Moreover, a child miseducated is a child lost.
  2.  Know the signs – A woman should never ignore signs of domestic violence in the garb of love. At times, violence begins at an early stage of relationships but the emotion of love makes you ignore the signs.
  3. Pen it down – Write down everything you had to go through, even the slightest of the details. Try to include details like time, date, location, and circumstances as they will help the police later in their investigation for getting a clear picture of the facts. 
  4. Know the number of a nearby shelter – You never know when the circumstances will be completely against you and you’ll have to leave your safest place i.e. your home to seek help and seek asylum during tough times. 

Conclusion

The global epidemic is now inside the houses. In this period of lockdown when men have nothing to do, they have started torturing their wives mentally and physically. We call it domestic violence. We call it private violence. Sometimes, we call it intimate terrorism. Despite the World Health Organization stating domestic violence as a “global epidemic”, not much attention is being given to it. It is tough to prove what happens inside the four walls of a house and it can destroy a kid’s future apart from the presence of a woman by making her undergo an ordeal. As long as women continue to show that they are vulnerable and scared, they will have to suffer more; so they should stay strong and come out to fight this.

A necessary step is needed for changing the whole mindset of society towards women and educating men. Men should be educated on how to treat women equally and help them grow too. 

Lastly, if present domestic violence laws are combined with education, then indeed the future would be safe. Women should come out and speak against the violence because despite being domestic, violence is violence.



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