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COVID - 19: STRENGTHEN FAMILY BONDS VERSUS DOMESTIC CONFLICT & VIOLENCE

By- Shantanu Dixit, Student at National Law University, Nagpur

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling – But in rising every time we fall”
- Confucious


INTRODUCTION

With the world in lockdown, for the same, being at home is as dangerous as being outside. Along with its immediate health risks, COVID-19 has brought with it many uncertainties & some challenging lifestyle changes. The upsurge in the cases of domestic violence is being the most detrimental element. It does not discriminate. It takes place inside all ranges, ethnic backgrounds & monetary levels. Moreover, the shelter-in-place orders, loss of lives & market volatility have led to elevated anxiety levels for many of us.

Amid the turmoil, however, this unexpected shelter-in-place lifestyle has also produced a silver lining. It has given many of us something we have lacked for years. With social activities on hold, student’s home from school & for many, a commute just down the hall to the office, COVID-19 offers a unique opportunity, the time to focus on our familial commitments, culture & vision, and at the same time to strengthen them.


COVID-19: BLESSING IN DISGUISE

While this time of shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19 can pose challenges to families now confined together in closed quarters, this current crisis presents families with a unique opportunity: to slow down, spend quality time together & strengthen family bonds. Going from a scheduled jam-packed with practices, games, performances & playdates to a seemingly unending day, “stuck at home” in fact offers families a precious commodity; time to kids and even grandparents, are all under the same roof, round-the-clock. And this enforced togetherness can deepen the relationship for years to come. Further people & families when faced with a global crisis & especially one of this scale, tend to respond by orienting themselves in a less-centered way & in a more family-centric way.

In the ‘Make Space for Life’ survey conducted by Godrej Interio, it was found that 56.7% of the respondents rated their work-life balance as terrible. But, the lockdown has slowly changed that, with more & more people making use of the time to improve their relationship with not just immediate family, but also re-establishing bonds with other relatives. An analysis by the economist conducted in 11 countries found that the average mother spent 104 minutes a day with their children while fathers spent an average of 59 minutes. The survey had pointed to 34% of respondents feeling guilty at not having enough time to dedicate to their children, citing their successful careers as a reason. However, staying-in at home has helped them refocus & indulge in several activities along with their children. The lockdown is also helping in breaking down gender roles: the roles have now been reversed in households- men are now venturing to the kitchen to make meals for their kids.


WAYS TO CEMENT RELATIONSHIPS & BRING FAMILIES TOGETHER

  • Create or revise your cornerstone statement.

  • Help your children developing budgeting skills.

  • Staying connected with others during physical distancing.

  • Share your investing experience with family members.

  • Talk about challenges & brainstorm ways to address them.

Further, bringing back the family dinner, cooking together, reading together is also an easier means to foster healthy family relationships.


PANDEMIC WITHIN A PANDEMIC

Domestic Violence is violence or other abuse in a domestic setting, which includes marriage or cohabitation. Domestic Violence is frequently used as a synonym for intimate accomplice violence, which is committed by a partner or accomplice in an intimate relationship in opposition to the alternative partner or companion & can take place in heterosexual or same-intercourse relationships or among former spouses or partners. In its broadest sense, domestic violence also entails violence towards children, parents, or the elderly.

The entire world is suffering from pandemic i.e. COVID-19 whereas there exists pandemic within a pandemic & it is though not much talked about & being covert is the Domestic Violence. It is on an upsurge, wrecking catastrophe in the lives of women. On one hand, healthcare & economy are being addressed while on the other side the other issue of domestic violence is going unaddressed. The lockdown has resulted in women fighting two battles i.e. one with the virus & other with their abusive spouses, and while the former may have the culmination eventually the gender-based atrocities seem ever-lasting. Recent statistics related through the NALSA endorse that the nationwide lockdown has caused an expeditious climb in cases of domestic violence. The data, which is categorized in step with instances in different states advocate that the Uttarakhand recorded the maximum number of domestic violence cases in the last two months of lockdown following Haryana & Delhi. Further National Commission for Women (NCW), which receives complaints of domestic violence cases from across the country, recorded a more than twofold rise in gender-based violence during the initial lockdown-period. According to the data on the official website of the NCW, 587 complaints are filed from 23/03/2020 to 16/04/2020.

The situation of increase in cases of domestic violence is not restricted to only India. According to UN reports, in Lebanon & Malaysia have seen the number of calls to women helplines just double compared with the same month last year. In China, the number of calls is tripled to the number of calls before the lockdown. Domestic violence rates have surged in France & South Africa, as per the “Voice of America”. In South Africa, there are 90,000 cases of domestic violence in the first week of lockdown. In Spain, the emergency helpline number for domestic violence received 18% more calls.


PROBABLE CAUSES FOR THE UPTHRUST IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES

There are numerous aspects to this sudden rise in the number. Some of them are:

  • Disparate Workload: There is curtailment within the workload for working males because of the “work from home” system & subsequently the workload on females has increased. They need to control all the household work & professional work. It frequently results in an elevated level of strain among females & subsequently ends in more arguments & fights between spouses.

  • Lack of Income: This is one of the critical elements for eagerness & depression among men. This pandemic has cost people their jobs. Mostly the workers indulged in small scale industries & private workers have lost their jobs. The detrimental economic condition leads to agitation & frustration, of which women & children become the victim.

  • Lack of resources: Because of the lockdown, there are uncounted cases which are not even reported like if a woman from the rural area where she doesn’t know about the NCW or if they are aware of this but they don’t know how to deal with the procedure & they are still surviving with the infected opportunistic virus (domestic violence) without informing to anyone.


CHECKS & BALANCES BY THE GOVERNMENT

  • To curb the brunt of this turmoil inside the houses following measures has been taken:

  • One-Stop center scheme: Ministry of Women and Child Development have created one-stop centers in various states to safeguard the women undergoing abuse, torture, or any form of physical or mental harassment. The sufferers can also contact the authorities through toll-free-number. “181”. The NCW has also recently launched a WhatsApp Number “7217735372” apart from a helpline & email option.

  • Suppress Corona not your voice: This is initiated by the U.P. government to spread the awareness that wearing masks is of paramount importance but, it is equally important to raise your voice against any injustice. Victims can dial the helpline number “112” in case of any complaints.

  • Mpower 1on1: This is a helpline in Mumbai to report domestic abuse. The government of Maharashtra has tied up with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to launch a toll-free helpline number.


CONCLUSION

To sum up, there are many factors due to which domestic violence has increased. These factors have pestered the common Indian men to the core. They opted out to vent their irritation & frustration in the form of domestic violence. The scare of domestic violence has increased because of the lockdown & above-mentioned factors. But, the lockdown has only engraved the issue which has already very prevalent in our country because of the patriarchal society in which we live & the entitlement that men feel they have over women. The fight with coronavirus is a tough one & so is the fight with patriarchy.

But at the same time, this can act as a blessing in disguise as the virus is slowing us all down & hence we should use this time wisely with our family. Indulging in conversations with parents and sharing things with them. Provide engaging age-appropriate activities. Daily reading time can be a time for parents & kids to both have quiet time to read & relax. Be sure to PLAY & have FUN! & as a result not only this would strengthen the bond but also act as a weapon for all sorts of violence.

(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Child Rights Centre.)

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