DOUBLE PANDEMIC: INCREASING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DURING LOCK DOWN

Pooja Jose

Student, Government Law College, Kozhikode.

INTRODUCTION

The Covid19 pandemic has affected the whole world. It has left us with diverse economic, financial, social, and mental anguish. Due to the obstinate spread of the virus, many countries were compelled to impose restrictions and lock downs. The mental stress and agony that people around the world faced due to home quarantine and restricted movement were quite high, due to this the world is witnessing the highest number of domestic violence ever reported. Countries like UK, Australia, Brazil, China, France, the USA also reported an alarming increase in domestic violence[1] and intimate partner violence as well as an increase in divorce petitions. India is one of the countries which has implemented mass and restrictive quarantine in the world. India, the second most populous country in the world, is forced to do so for the effective control of the spread of the Corona Virus. The lock down that started in March 2020 created a lot of hardships for the Indian population that led to the loss of jobs, starvation, and serious financial breakdowns. These were the major issues that the government knew that was likely to occur during the lock down, but one of the areas that the government failed to address was the possible increase in domestic violence. 

DEFINITION

According to the United Nations, the term domestic violence can be defined as “a pattern of behaviour in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner”.[2] Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. Domestic violence as stated in the above definition not only covers women but children too. The increase in domestic violence is in no doubt detrimental to the emotional and behavioural development of the child. In many cases, the mental distress that is caused by domestic violence is irreparable mental trauma. The issue of domestic violence was a reality that existed before the corona virus and could be termed as one of the greatest human rights violations in history. In an attempt to flatten the curve of the pandemic, Indian households have suffered collateral damage. United Nations called increasing domestic violence as a shadow pandemic.[3]

INDIA’S STATUS BEFORE THE PANDEMIC

According to the Crime in India Report 2018, published by the National Crimes Research Bureau (NCRB) [1 NCRB, Crime in India 2018 Statistics (Ministry of Home Affairs, GoI, 2020).], every 1.7 minutes a crime was recorded against women in India; every 16 minutes a rape was committed and every 4.4 minutes a girl was subjected to domestic violence. Smt. M C Josephine, chairperson of the Women’s Commission, Kerala said that there was a marked increase in the instances of domestic violence during this time.[4]

DURING PANDEMIC

India was once the most dangerous country for women [5] and still proves that there is no major change other than the unnerving increase in the violence against women every day. The National Commission for Women says that the restrictions and lock down due to the pandemic have increased the rate of domestic violence.[6] In 2020, between March 25 and May 31, 1477 complaints of domestic violence were made by women.[7] Most of the complaints were received online (WhatsApp). The complaints filed fall under these categories – dowry harassment, molestation, rape and attempt to rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, and harassment, etc. 60% of domestic violence plaints filed before the commission are from the northern parts of India. The states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, New Delhi, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh reported an increase in domestic violence,[8] and the same was addressed by the National Women’s Commission chairman Rekha Sharma. Complaints were received through both online and offline channels before the pandemic. Due to the lock down women are having lesser access to these places in person and now the complaints are mainly online.

The current circumstances make reporting even harder as there are a lot of limitations for women and girls to access phones and helplines and to approach public services like police and social services. The main reason for this is social distancing, isolation, and home quarantine that have been imposed, which give women fewer avenues to bring their grievances to the commission. This is also one of the reasons why online complaints were so high during the lock down. The women in rural areas do not have access to quality education, internet and mobile phones. These sections of women have lesser options to approach the authorities. This impaired situation of women needs a robust plan. In most situations, children in the households are mentally abused and due to the lock down, they do not get a chance to share these with the teachers and their friends which makes the situation even worse. The isolation of women and children without access to mobile phones, family, and friends is unimaginable when they have to deal with an abusive and violent partner. In most cases, domestic violence goes unreported because of the fear of shame in the society that women will have to face. The early bail given to the accused will also pose a threat to the life of the women due to which most of the women tend to stay quiet. The tendency of the inmate partner to vent his/her anger on the other partner needs to be addressed very seriously as during this lock down the mental trauma can be very high. Especially in a situation where the victim cannot keep in touch with the outside world. Heart-wrenching stories of physical violence in households were reported which include beating, kicking, sexual abuse, slapping, dowry harassment, etc.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

There are various provisions for the protection of women in the Constitution, the Indian Penal Code, and various Statutes.[9] The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005 is the Act that deals with domestic violence in India. On 18 December 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It came into force as an international treaty on 3 September 1981.  185 countries including India ratified the convention. Under Article 253 of the Constitution, India signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW) on 30 July 1980 and ratified it on 9 July 1993 with two declarations and one reservation. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005 was enacted on 13th September 2005 and brought into force on 26th October 2006. The Act provides for more effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. 

Under the Indian Constitution Article 14 ensures equality, Article 15 ensures no discrimination, and Article 21, right to life and personal liberty, protects the dignity of women, ensures the right to shelter and one of the foremost rights that is., the right to be free of violence.

Under the Indian Penal Code section 498-A and 304-B deal with the women suffering in her marital home.

CASE LAWS AND DEVELOPMENTS 

Case laws under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005:

Various case laws have brought praiseworthy new provisions and did a great contribution to the development of the Act. The cases include the interpretation of the aggrieved person defined under the Act, live-in-relations, shared household, and right to reside in the matrimonial house. 

a) S.R Batra v. Smt. Taruna Batraon 15 December 2006.

The Court interpreted section 2(s) of the Domestic Violence Act which deals with the definition of ‘shared household’ and will the house which is not under the name of the husband be treated as a shared household and that can she claim a right to reside in that shared household. In the following case, the property in dispute was in the name of the mother-in-law and the husband had no right in the property. Thus, the court held that 

“the wife is only entitled to claim a right to residence in a shared household, and a shared household’ would only mean the house belonging to or taken on rent by the husband or the house which belongs to the joint family of which the husband is a member”.

b) D. Velusamy vs D. Patchaiammal on 21 October 2010.

In this case, the Court held that live-in-relationship will be covered under the aggrieved person in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005. The Court also laid down various provisions to fall under this category and the court stated that “not all live-in relationships will amount to a relationship in the nature of marriage to get the benefit of the Act of 2005” which includes a ‘keep”.

c) Megha Khandelwal vs Rajat Khandelwal on 10 May, 2019.       

In this case, the wife filed a domestic violence petition against the husband. Later filed an application under section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005 for interim maintenance allowances. In the initial stages, she asked 5,000 and then wanted a rise to 9,000 and finally demanded 25,000 while taking into the income tax of the husband. The court granted maintenance of rupees 25,000 per month for her. In this case, the court held that the wife being well educated is not a bar to interim maintenance allowances.

Case Laws under the Indian Penal Code 1860

a) Shanti v. State of Haryana. 

In this case, the court held that

“a person charged and acquitted under section 304-B can be convicted under section 498-A without being there if such a case is made out. 

b) B.S Joshi. State of Haryana.

In this case, the court held that “The hyper-technical view would be counterproductive and would act against the interests of women and against the object for which this provision was added. There is every likelihood that non-exercise of inherent power to quash the proceedings to meet the ends of justice would prevent women from settling earlier. That is not the object of Chapter XXA of the Indian Penal Code”. Thus, quashing of FIR was granted, this was with a view for speedy settlement for the aggrieved women.

There have been various developments that happened during the years for the Protection of Domestic Violence Act,2005. The Act has been given wider interpretations. In the case, Krishna Bhattacharjee v. Sarathi Choudhury and Another list down the duties of a court while deciding a case under the Act. There are situations where a case brought in by a woman is dismissed due to silly reasons. This creates a tendency among women to lose their faith in the court. During this pandemic, women must be aware and they must have that faith in them, that there is a law to protect them from all these atrocities and there is a great role for the executive and judiciary to play in this as well.

CONCLUSION

The measures that can be taken during the pandemic are limited due to the constraints of lock down but we cannot let this situation continue unattended. To help women file complain and seek help, the National Commission for Women has launched an emergency Whats App number in addition to the regular online complaint links and emails. But this doesn’t essentially mean that every woman is aware of these measures. To overcome this problem, the initiative should be taken by the central government to increase awareness among women. One of the possible ways this can be done is by notifying the local authorities and political leaders to set up specific teams to interact with women in their local jurisdiction and provide them with all the help and protection necessary. To ensure that women can file complaints against abusers fearlessly, the government must provide abused victims with a safe place to stay away from the abuser. Under section 6 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005, the Protection Officer must provide the aggrieved party accommodation where the party has no place of accommodation. Shelter homes in India are currently not admitting abused victims out of fear of the spread of the virus and most of them lack adequate facilities.[10] To provide a safe space for abuse victims, governments must ensure adequate facilities and social distancing in shelter homes.

CITATIONS

[1] Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, A Double Pandemic: Domestic Violence in the Age of COVID-19, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS (Aug. 10 ,2020, 10:05 PM), https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/double-pandemic-domestic-violence-age-covid-19.

[2] UNITED NATIONS, What is domestic abuse (Aug. 10 ,2020, 10:15 PM), https://www.un.org/en/coronavirus/what-is-domestic-abuse.

[3] Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Violence against women and girls: the shadow pandemic, UNITED NATIONS WOMEN (Aug. 10, 2020, 10:21 PM), https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/4/statement-ed-phumzile-violence-against-women-   during-pandemic.

[4] TNN,, Domestic violence plaints on the rise: Kerala state women’s commission chairperson, TOI, (Aug 10, 2020, 10:31 PM),

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/domestic-violence-plaints-on-the-rise-kerala-state-womens-commission-chairperson/articleshow/73630749.cms.

[5] Thomson Reuters Foundation, India most dangerous country for women: survey, DECCAN HERALD, (Aug. 10, 2020, 11:05 PM), https://www.deccanherald.com/international/india-most-dangerous-country-677132.html.

[6] Ambika Pandit, Lockdown saw significant rise in domestic violence complaint to NCW, THE TOI, (Aug. 10, 2020, 10:44 PM), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/lockdown-saw-significant-rise-in-domestic-violence-complaints-to-ncw/articleshow/76240502.cms.

[7] Vignesh, Sumant & S Naresh , Data | Domestic violence complaints at a 10-year high during COVID-19 lockdown, T. HINDU, (Aug. 10, 2020, 10:50 PM),

https://www.thehindu.com/data/data-domestic-violence-complaints-at-a-10-year-high-during-covid-19-  lockdown/article31885001.ece.

[8] Ibid.

[9] INDIA CONST. Art. 14, Art 15,cl 1, cl.3, Art. 16, Art 39, cl. A & cl. D, Art. 42, Art. 46, Art. 47, Art. 243D, cl. 3 & cl. 4, Art. 243T, cl. 3, & cl. 4.

IPC. Sec. 376, 363-37,302/304-B,  498-A, 354, 509.

[10] Aathira Konikkara, Lockdown and domestic violence: As NGOs struggle to support women at risk, government plays catch up, THE CARAVAN,(Aug. 10, 2020, 11:20PM), https://caravanmagazine.in/gender/lockdown-domestic-violence-ngo-struggle-government-catch-up.

BOOKS & STATUTES

  1. D.D Basu, Introduction to the Constitution of India, 23 rd ed. 2018.
  2. Prof. S. N. Misra, Indian Penal Code, 21 st ed. 2019.
  3. The Protection Of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005, NO. 43, Acts of Parliament, 2005 (India)

CASE LAWS

  1. S.R Batra v. Smt. Taruna Batra 2007 (1) RCR (Crl) 403 (SC).
  2. D.Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal (2010) 10 SCC 469.
  3. Megha Khandelwal v. Rajat Khandelwal SLP (Crl.) No. 6422 of 2018).
  4. Shanti v. State of Haryana 1991 AIR 1226, 1990 SCR Supl. (2) 675.
  5. B.S Joshi v. State of Haryana, 2003 Cr LJ 2028 (SC).

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