The incidence of domestic violence saw a steep rise during the nationwide lockdown announced in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Commission for Women (NCW) recorded 587 cases of domestic violence between March 23 and April 16, 2020, as compared to 396 complaints between February 27 and March 22 this year.
This when domestic violence is already the most common kind of violence against women. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS 4) reports that one in three women in India has suffered domestic violence.
But why? #AkhirKyon
Love Matters, India’s most popular sexual and reproductive rights platform, organized a Tweetathon on 29 May 2020 to ask exactly this. Why is domestic violence so prevalent in India and why did it increase during the lockdown?
Before the tweetathon, Love Matters India conducted a poll on its social media platforms on what our audience thought was the prime reason behind domestic violence. Almost 800 people voted and an overwhelming majority listed patriarchy (male dominance in family set-ups) as the prime reason behind domestic violence followed by alcohol, family and job-related issues.
The tweetathon began with Love Matters India’s head Vithika Yadav presenting the poll statistics. She then asked why domestic violence worsened during COVID-19 lockdowns and how could this rather old pandemic be addressed.
Several prominent organisations working in the field of domestic violence, gender rights and sexual health responded to the questions. Population Foundation of India (PFI), International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Breakthrough, Shakti Shalini, CREA, Mash Project Foundation, Haiyya, Youth Ki Awaaz, Gaylaxy Magazine and Dr SafeHands joined the conversations led by Love Matters India.
“Domestic violence is not because of the lockdown or the pandemic. It’s just worsened. With the lockdown, it means being restrained in homes, with certain members, with family, not being able to access your workspace or your community space,” Adsa Fatima from Resource Group for Women and Health said.
“There is an urgent need for a national campaign in multiple languages and on multiple media to promote awareness on #DomesticViolence and highlight various channels through which complaints can be filed,” said Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India (PFI).
Popular LGBTQ Gaylaxy e-magazine also joined in the conversation and added, “Home is not the safest place for many #Queer people. Home is where they face the max abuse, often verbal and physical. #Queer people have developed support system in friends and community, but this #lockdown has stripped them of it all”
“In this lockdown situation, the abuser is home all the time, and in our country, most households have one room. So, where does one go?” Urvashi Gandhi, the global advocacy director at Breakthrough India asked.
Popular youth platform Youth Ki Awaaz wrote that the realities being faced by women during COVD-19 lockdowns were very different from men and there is hardly any focus on these.
Grassroots social change-makers Haiyya wrote, “Women couldn’t get out of their houses to find any resort or support system.”
Love Matters India also shared several accounts of pre and lockdown-era domestic violence and then offered several solutions on how domestic violence can be gradually addressed.
One important way is to address the everyday norms in our society and homes that promote violence, added Ms Vithika Yadav. “We all feed this culture, knowingly or unknowingly.”
“Whether it’s that joke about beating the wife/husband or that generational advice that tells women ‘to adjust’ or that machismo taught to boys – “can’t you control your wife?” They all contribute to violence. Love Matters has often talked about how we can change this culture. And we will continue to promote these in our conversations”, she added.