RAMIFICATION OF DOMESTIC CRISIS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
By- Dhyaneshwari Rehpade, 3rd Year, B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at National Law University, Nagpur.
This unprecedented situation of Pandemic has disturbed the domestic fabric of the family by affecting the mental as well as physical health of the members of the family. Where everyone in the search for a safe place and environment, millions of human life are separated and lose contact with the family, friends, relatives, but still, the virtual world is playing the role of connectivity between human relations. COVID-19 destroyed countries' economic, medical, and social structure, which has imposed severe mental health issues on humans.
In this regard, United Nations Secretary-General Anto Nio Guterres cited that lockdown and quarantine is the key strategy to curb the spreading coronavirus, but this will confine women and children with abuser. "Due to the economic and social pressures, the fear is grown and seen a horrifying surge in domestic violence." The current situation of COVID-19 has adversely affected the domestic family by its unprecedented proliferation regionally as well as globally. Living inside a home for a longer time is now became the risk for women as well as children. This is evidenced if we glance at the statistics and report of various organisations, such as last year reports by the National Crime Records Bureau of India is 2018 recorded with 103,272 cases of domestic violence. But in the single month of March, the National Commission for Women received 370 complaints.
24/7 helplines are receiving complaints, phone calls regarding violence at home, at the workplace. Recently, reports from Asia, North and Latin America, and Europe have increased and asked for support.[i]
THE RAMIFICATION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON WOMEN AND CHILD
Child exploitation, child abuse, violation of child rights are pertinent the global issues. The disturbing trend in this regard is escalating cases of violence against women and children. Currently, the rate of violence is rising and affecting victims mentally. Not just the children but also the women are the victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and torture, pregnancy. Legally everyone has a similar and equal right to live with dignity, but still, children and women are getting exploited due to their vulnerability. As per article 21 of the Indian constitution, no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
The majority of the population is behind the doors, and therefore it is difficult to say that every woman and child is safe. Being at home, increases the risk of exploitation, cyberbullying, physical and sexual abuse. There was a time when women were able to report cases of domestic violence due to social support. Still, in this lockdown period, it became difficult for women to go out or report their case because the abuser, who is staying at the same place. The Government has observed the reports and seen the rate of increase in domestic violence cases during the lockdown. The national commission for women reported with almost 257 cases at the end of March 2020. Before the lockdown, it was easy to judge children's behavior and symptoms of domestic violence. But as the lockdown has to lead to the closure of schools, it isn't easy to help them. National problems such as income loss, economic insecurity, and widespread jobs are the causes of domestic violence against children and women. The women who are living in rural areas are facing many challenges such as discrimination, poverty, lack of medical and social services in addition to violence by their husbands and also, scarcity of food and ration. Statistics point out to the fact that one in three women have experienced violence at some point in their lives, and have been killed or murdered. Before COVID-19, there was a lack of investments in the essentials services for the protection of women, but now it is getting tough for women to avail of any of such essential services. There are organizations, NGOs, national platforms that work for women and their protection, but lack of knowledge on how to avail the results of their services in cases unreported.
To curb the spread of COVID19, there are impacts on the provisions of health, justice, and policing services. Health workers are tackling the clinical management of COVID patients, mental health care, counseling for survivors of violence, then police and justice sector is prioritizing monitoring social distancing, quarantine, or maybe other public unrest crimes, e.g., looting, robbery. Therefore it limits access to justice.[ii]
EFFECT ON CHILD RIGHTS
The dismal state of the education sector is gauged by the findings of UNESCO recording 60% of the world student population is out of school studying. UNESCO has taken a step to support those countries that are of less educational development resources for remote learning. That may help them to improve connectivity between students and educational resources. Asian countries, such as Bangladesh, China, and India, have adopted digital education. In India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has developed different platforms for online learning and creating the National Digital Library of India during the health crises.
Other aspects of closure of schools include:
· Dropping out education
· Poor Nutrition
· Less access to technology
· Economic crisis
· Child marriage
· Child labour
· Increase in exploitation
· Social isolation
As per the new educational system, online digital learning has certain pros and cons. More than 385 million children live in extreme poverty. Therefore, low-income groups can't be able to avail of the service of digital online learning. There is an observation that focuses on daily meals from the school were 100 million children in India are getting health care and food from schools. Not just the education but also the preventive measure has been a task for them not to be exposed to the virus. The most affected group among the children is persons with disabilities. These people are facing a lack of accessibility to these virtual learnings.
Further, they have always faced discrimination and had to make do with inferior quality of education. As per the New Education Policy 2020 in India, it gives an indication for the future that children in poor and rural get access to education. This will attract more students from the minority community. The Indian Government has also tried to decrease the stress on children's mental health, which is the main psychological issue due to Covid-19.
In the context of "Digital Divide," women and children have led access to the internet due to less technological awareness, low income, less handling knowledge. Therefore, this situation calls for the initiation of proactive steps on the part of the government machinery to provide digital infrastructure to children as well as teachers. Most disturbingly, in Rural areas, people are facing problems such as heavy downpour, incessant floods, blackouts, weak network connections culminating in lack of accessibility in the virtual learning platform. To provide relief in such a difficult situation, the Ministry of Rural Development's Mission Antyodaya survey trying to improve the electricity issue.
The Supreme Court gives various directions to different committees and Governments for the protection of children from domestic violence, abuse, and COVID-19 myriad crisis. Supreme Court has taken a suo moto cognizance of the issue for the protection of children under the provision of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
The Government should follow the following directions:
· Training the volunteers by developing the system for taking care of children.
· Develop a monitoring system by making advance counseling to prevent violence, abuse, neglect, gender-based violence, which may create stress.
· Need to ensure an adequate budget to spend on the allocation and effective management.
· To make available good quality of face masks, soap, disinfectants or alcohol-based disinfectants, etc.
· Proper management of availability of food, clean drinking water, menstrual hygiene products, and other necessities.
Other directions were given to CCIs, to set up new National Helpline on COVID-19 which are 1075 and 1800112545. There should be proper online settings or video sessions to prevent children in their homes, SAAs, Open shelters.[iii]
Amidst escalating instances of domestic violence during the phase of lockdown, the steps undertaken by Delhi High Court are worth reckoning. It has directed Delhi Government as well as the Central Government to effectively implement protection of women under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. It has directed various NGOs and organizations that are working for women and child rights to offer and take precautionary measures for victims and abusers.
The effect of COVID-19 on women and children is the most prevalent issue in the current time. The country needs to focus on increasing cases of violence and exploitation and its impact on the psychological, physiological, and mental health of women and children. Many children will lose their childhood and permanently get affected by this. To make the homely environment, not just the victim, need the counseling but also the abuser. Women need to raise their voices so that justice will prevail, and in the future, it will be easy to decrease domestic violence.
[i] COVID-19 and Essential Services Provision for Survivors of Violence Against Women and Girl, UN Women, [ii] Supra note 1. [iii] Prachi Bhardwaj, “SC issues extensive directions to protect children in protection Homes from spread of coronavirus”, SCC ONLINE, April 4, 2020.
(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.)