Explosive rise in domestic violence during Covid-19

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Explosive rise
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By Fatima Rizvi

Although the woman of the 21st century has met numerous challenges successfully, still a quest is waiting for her and that is the battle of violence against her. The situation gets worse when the violence starts at home as the scholars call it family violence or domestic violence. Domestic violence is terrorism at home. It is a crime against a person. International human rights laws are made to aid human rights and domestic violence is a clear violation of human rights. International human rights law is based on gender equality. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women states that violence against this weak group of society is a disclosure of inequivalent powers of men in society and violence is an ancient gadget through which women can be made inferior to men.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has intensified the prevalence and ratio of domestic violence all over the world. Governmental institutions and health workers suggest that lockdown is a preventive measure for this epidemic. Women are stuck at home with their perpetrators that makes them an easy prey. Due to social distancing, women have become more vulnerable because they are disconnected from their relatives and friends and that’s what a perpetrator wants to initiate violence. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes this offence as a deliberate and designed plan through which a husband or an intimate partner threat or harms his prey that may result in physical or mental injury. There are different forms of injuries which a woman sustains and is bound to tolerate because she is financially dependent on the perpetrator. These injuries can be in the form of physical, emotional and psychological injuries and sometimes it can be inflicted in the form of sexual violence. It can be said that domestic violence affects a woman as a mother as well as a person in the society. The effects can be serious and immediate but sometimes it appears after a longer period. These effects can be physical, physiological and emotional. Following are some of the effects which brutally influence the personality of a woman. Physical effects may include bruises, cuts, fractures or dislocated bones, burn marks or fresh wounds, nail scratch marks, internal bleeding, miscarriage or abortion, pale skin and anemia. Psychological effects may include anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal disorders due to stress, use of liquor, maltreatment of children, development of the attitude of gender inequality, urge to have extramarital affair, lack of efficiency in work from home situation, lack of interest in household activities, poor hygiene and suicide in extreme cases. Similarly, emotional effects may include nightmares, scary and horrified storm of thoughts, cold sweats, use of intoxicating material, panic attacks, feelings of shame, hatred, enmity, fear or rage against intimate partner or spouse.

As a result of lockdown and social distancing, the household work on a woman has also been expanded. She needs to give attention not only to the household chores but also to the children whose schools have been shut down under the government policy and to the family members who are infected with this disease. On the other side, the perpetrator is also facing financial meltdown, loss of a job or short term loss of earnings which ultimately boosts the feeling of rage, hatred and wrath. These feelings persuade him to design the plan of violence. This offence is a veiled threat to all societies of the world. It can be found in any group or class of society. It has prevailed in all religions and all communities and states. There is no doubt that the rate of domestic violence especially the spousal violence during the Covid-19 has increased but, on the other hand, this crime is still under-reported. People still believe that it is against the dignity and respect of a family that a woman reports about the violent behaviour of her husband. They believe that it is a household matter which should be resolved among families and not in the court of law. In this way, the innocent and vulnerable minds of women are trained to conceal the painful situations and beating incidences which they are facing at home. Women often feel reluctant to file a complaint because they consider their selves isolated and abandoned. Their minds are convinced that if they take such action the society will stigmatize them. Raising voice against this shadowy offence will bring more shame and humiliation to the family. It will not only influence their personal life but it will also leave worse impact on their professional career. Moreover, their own families refuse to give them any financial and moral support.

In the current scenario, our social norms need to be improved and reformed. The positive and sympathetic attitude of society towards victim will encourage her to fight against this evil. With the support and protection of society, she will be able to live a healthy and normal life. It is the responsibility of the state and society to inculcate the concepts of trust, hope, confidence and desire to live a peaceful life in its individuals. The survivors of violence must not be left alone.

Due to Covid-19, some of the support networks like religious places, non-governmental social work societies and healthcare centres are closed or they are bound to provide their attention and services to the coronavirus affectees. Scarce financial resources and shortage of funding is also the main reason that governmental institutions are restrained to provide assistance to victims. Although almost all the states of the world have sufficient legislation to control domestic violence. They have upgraded their domestic laws in accordance with international human rights laws. The only need is to chalk out proper national response plans. This offence can easily impact all classes of the society. So the states must provide financial support to lower-income level victims and proper evacuation plan for higher income level victims. Healthcare centres and law enforcement agencies must give a quick response to the sufferer of violence. The facility of counselling and shelter homes must be easily available to all the survivors.

It’s time to work hard for the growth and development of all the states. International forums and leaders of all the nations must sit together to control this social evil and deal with this matter with utmost commitment and responsibility.

The writer is an LLM from University of the Punjab. She is a motivational speaker and a human rights activist. She is a High Court Lawyer and currently working at Lahore Leads University. She appears on different talk shows as a law expert. She can be reached at fatimaahrizvi@gmail.com.

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