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1 in 3 women in India suffers sexual and physical violence at home

1 in 3 women in India suffers sexual and physical violence at home

Prachi Agarwal

Domestic violence is not an obstacle that came to light or will end once this pandemic goes away. According to the verified statistics, there were 5,294 complaints of domestic violence last year compared to 2,960 in 2019, which was a screeching 79 percent raise. It’s a sign of a larger problem which the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted.

The rise in violence against women in India during the global COVID-19 outbreak has been titled by the United Nations as a “Shadow Pandemic”.

Lockdowns forced women to remain confined in their homes with their abusers. It is also found that there is a high prevalence of child marriages in Bihar, West Bengal, and Tripura where over 40 percent of women were married before they passed the legal age.

Reason for the Rise

NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma has attributed the increase in cases to factors like economic insecurity, financial instability, and isolation, etc. “Victims of domestic violence are distanced from their regular support systems making it difficult for them to call out for help. The series of COVID-19 lockdowns in India reduced the opportunities of reporting of domestic violence cases,” Ms. Sharma told PTI.

The impacts of crises are never gender-neutral, and COVID-19 is no exception.

Over the years, studies have shown a common link between times of crisis like these and interpersonal violence. Pandemics provide for an enabling environment of fear and uncertainty that may aggravate multiple forms of violence against women. Regrettably, domestic violence cases are underreported across the whole world, especially in times of global emergencies like COVID-19.

Women worldwide consider informal channels as their first point-of-reporting in the case of domestic violence. The first respondent is most commonly the family and the police the last option.

 In India, the National Family Health Survey-4, conducted in 2015-16, shown that 33% of married women of the age group 15-49 experienced physical, sexual, or emotional spousal violence. Of these women, only 14% sought help and 77% never spoke about it. Among those who took help, 65% reported to the natal family and only 3% reported to the police.

Also, the Whatsapp number given by the NCW had a limited reach as only 38% of women in India own phones and fewer have an internet connection, making this platform unreachable to the majority of women in the country.

In a conclusion, the series of COVID-19 lockdowns in India diminished the opportunities of reporting domestic violence cases.

The Helping Hand For Women: The NGOs

According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, a crime against women is recorded every 3 minutes, approximately 94 women are raped every day and a young, married woman is found beaten to death, burnt, or driven to suicide every 6 hours.

Violence against women comprises foeticide, infanticide, medical neglect, child marriages, sexual abuse, forced marriage, rape, prostitution, and sexual harassment at home and the workplace and their abusers involve in-laws and partners.

Under the Section 498A, it is clearly mentioned that-

‘Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”

To take the edge off domestic violence, NGOs provided a much-needed helping hand to the women.

  • The first free telephone helpline in India for Female Sex Workers (FSW) is now open to all women.
  • Many NGOs provide legal aid, refuge, and alternatives to those experiencing harassment, discrimination, and domestic violence.
  •  Telephone counseling offers legal advice and support, they also give women medical care, shelter, counseling, and guidance to deal with the immediate issues and also provide long-stay alternatives, including vocational training and education, for those unable to return home.
  • NGOs work in gender equality programming in relation to COVID-19. Targeted support should include capacity-building for NGOs that have not previously been able to include gender-based approaches in their program portfolios.

Not only NGOs and Governments but also Everyone has a role to play in this. As a good human being, we should take care that every girl around us feel safe and comfortable.

 “When it comes to abuse, you believe there’s no way out. There is always help. There is always a way out.” ― Rev. Donna Mulvey


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