The covid-19 pandemic and the management of domestic violence | Pakistan Today

The covid-19 pandemic and the management of domestic violence

  • Some pandemic problems stay hidden

In general, the concept of domestic violence includes many ideas such as domestic abuse and family violence. It is a violence in domestic setting, committed by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner. In its broader sense it includes the violence done children, parents or the elderly. Its scope is also wide and involves physical, verbal, emotional, economic, religious, reproductive and sexual abuse. The situations of the current pandemic have increased the occurrence of domestic violence all over the globe and also affected all walks of life. The problem of domestic violence was already in the form of an epidemic earlier, but the ongoing guidelines of living during the Covid-19 have converted it into a pandemic. In normal times domestic violence appears due to strains on security, health, and money, but the covid-19 pandemic has added several new factors such as substance abuse, unemployment, mental health, lack of coping skill, isolation and excessive dependence on abuser. In the context it’s a universal truth that in comparison to males, women are common sufferers. Even among them essential and informal workers such as doctors, nurses and street vendors are at the highest risk of violence because they travel both rural and urban areas frequently during the lockdown period which has made them unsafe.

All over the world, women face the most severe form of domestic violence and it varies from country to country. Wide researches on the problem help us to know that there is a direct and significant correlation between a country’s understanding of gender equality and its rates of domestic violence. Countries with less gender equality experience record a high rate of domestic violence. In addition, although it is found across the world, indications of lower socioeconomic status such as unemployment and low income have added to the risk of domestic violence in several countries.

Apart from the increased rate of domestic violence in the period of pandemic, the problem of domestic violence is a chronic disease for our society which needs a balanced view with maximum legal support at each and every stage

The current pandemic has implemented the factors of domestic violence in wholesale due to universal and long lockdowns. In this phase there is a general increase of 25 percent in domestic violence in several countries. It was reported in Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the USA. In these countries’ government authorities, women’s rights activists and social workers have raised their voices against the domestic violence and also demanded emergency remedies. Going a step further the European parliament, in a press release, condemned the domestic violence and urged the member states to support the cause of family abuse victims.

Of the many, the financial hardship and living together for longer time are the main reasons as indicated during the 2009 global financial crisis and normally around Christmas vacations. The situation in this respect deteriorated further when rules of quarantine and restrictions on travels were imposed and as a result victims of domestic violence were debarred from complaining anywhere to the competent authority. This apart, those who are responsible for managing or punishing the culprit like social workers, health staff, police and judicial services are also engaged in responding to the pandemic at a war level. In almost all countries where the negative effects of Covid-19 were on the rise and preventive measures were implemented, the number of domestic violence cases increased by and large. In addition to domestic violence due to the pandemic, there are also reports in refugees’ camps and gender-based violence in public places. However, the lion’s share in domestic violence owed to “stay at home” orders and movement restrictions. As per available data, if the lockdown period and “stay at home” orders remain active, the reported cases of domestic violence may be multiplied accordingly.

The governments of the day have tackled the problem of domestic violence in their own way. In this age of technology and mass communication many governments have developed apps, disclosed WhatsApp number, phone call signs and codes, created task forces, and so on. For example, Italy has launched an app that allows the victims to seek help without making any phone call, while the French government has started helping the victims with the help of a new hotline and website established for the purpose. Likewise, Western Australia has created a Covid-19 Family and Domestic Violence Task Force under the Department of Communities to work with the police force and service providers to ensure the continuation of services. In the context, courts are also allowed to conduct online monitoring and impose fines on culprits.

In India too, the National Commission for Women had launched a WhatsApp number for the period of stay-at-home and lockdown. The Indian women took help from this number in case they became victim of domestic violence. At state levels Odisha police began to ascertain the previous cases of domestic violence in the state, while in Pune the perpetrators of domestic violence were institutionally quarantined. Similarly, three Indian agencies related to women’s’ welfare launched the ‘Ring the Bell’ campaign to raise their voices against domestic violence. To help the victims, several domestic abuse organisations have come forward and are providing the rooms in hotels for the applicants whose protection orders prohibit them from living with the abuser. Even the British Government, taking the complaints seriously, allowed the victims of domestic violence to leave the houses and take shelter in a refuge and also kept the National Domestic Abuse Helpline operative during the crisis along with allocating the extra 1.6 billion pounds for those who were in need.

In particular, the lack of legislation against the domestic violence, the victim not being able to leave the abuser, individual versus family rights, immigration policies, immigration communities, customs and traditions, and religious beliefs are some of the causes that need to be addressed to minimize the incidents of domestic violence. International organisations, like Amnesty International and WHO, have condemned the increasing instances of domestic violence and noted that the most common violence against the woman is performed by her husband or other male partner and this form of violence is often ignored, because neither legal system nor cultural norms consider them a crime, but rather a private family matter or a part of daily life.

Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner of Human Rights, is also of the view that family violence is outside the conceptual framework of international human rights. He also maintained further that it is clearly a state responsibility to uphold human rights and ensure freedom from discrimination of all kinds. In most of the cases victims of domestic violence do not want to leave their abuser because of traditional reasons as divorced women are seen in the social framework as an oddity and they feel rejected. In many countries a woman’s access to her husband’s property is so long as she lives with him, but she loses it once the divorce case is finalised. The women in general, never want to lose the cover of their husband’s property, the only helper of their rainy days, if any misfortune occurs with them. Apart from the increased rate of domestic violence in the period of pandemic, the problem of domestic violence is a chronic disease for our society which needs a balanced view with maximum legal support at each and every stage.