Covid-19 has led to a distressing increase in domestic violence
The whole world is fighting against the novel disease -- Covid-19. Every nation is facing different crises, mainly health and economic crises. But a new crisis is arising amid this pandemic situation, which is domestic violence.
Quarantine and lockdown measures aimed to stop the spread of the coronavirus are making violence in homes more frequent and more severe in nature. According to the Chinese official report, domestic violence has increased 3 times than in the past.
In the UK it has increased by 25%, in the US it increased by 35%, and in India it increased by 100%. According to the United Nations, 1 out of 3 women face physical violence, most of which comes from an intimate partner.
In Bangladesh, domestic violence has always been a major problem for women. However, not only women, but children are also victims of domestic violence.
The countrywide general holiday due to the pandemic has increased the risk of domestic violence in Bangladesh. Unemployment and financial uncertainty brought by the pandemic have given birth to stress and frustration in people, and domestic tensions in families.
Negative emotions born from stress often have violent outlets. It is often found that stressed people release their frustration on the weaker members of their family, mostly on women and children, but sometimes on elderly parents too.
Domestic tensions can also lead to domestic violence. As people are in stress, it makes habitual abusers more volatile, while domestic privacy gives them a feeling of impunity.
Previously, people might have had a limited safe time when the abusers were out of home for work. But at present, the vulnerable women and children are stuck within the boundaries of their homes with their abusers who may exercise a stronger ability to control and terrify their victims.
We have the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000 which deals with rape, sexual harassment, acid violence, dowry violence, and the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2010 outlawing all forms of domestic violence.
The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act denotes that suffering women can be awarded compensation. And they also can live in that residence until the dispute is resolved. But due to this situation many cases are unreported.
So the question arises: Will there be a light at the end of this darkness?
The main reason for domestic violence cases being unreported is that women and children have no access to the information and they have no knowledge that what is happening is domestic violence and it is a crime for which they can get legal remedies.
Another reason is that law enforcement officers refuse to take a case of domestic violence until it is serious physical abuse or dowry abuse. Law enforcement officers should know about the DV Act and should apply it whenever necessary.
Law enforcement agencies should take immediate and effective measures while lodging complaints and maintaining confidentiality and safety of victims. The female officers should be preferentially assigned to deal with domestic violence cases.
We also have a national helpline for violence against women and children which is 109. It is available 24/7 in all parts of Bangladesh. This 109 service, which is toll-free, gives services of legal assistance, police assistance, and telephone counseling.
But in this pandemic situation, when the risk of domestic violence is high and it is risky for the victims to come to the police station in person, we need more responsive emergency helpline numbers.
Also, websites and apps should be introduced through which victims of domestic violence can, in an easy way, ask for help if they are unable to talk.
Moreover, law enforcement agencies need to be trained and provided with resources in emergency situations, especially because it is extremely difficult for women trapped and controlled at home to reach out for help.
Media can play a big role here in this crisis moment. Media can give announcements to raise awareness among people. Moreover, they can share information about how to contact the police via hotlines.
TV channels can also put the information on scrolls. Mobile companies can send a message to their customers to create awareness about domestic violence.
There also must be some indirect ways in departmental stores or pharmacies by which the victims can be connected with the police, or the shopkeepers can keep the number and address and name of the victim and can contact the emergency line. This method is also followed in Spain to prevent domestic violence.
In rural Bangladesh, where mobile phones are uncommon or limited to men, lighter-touch interventions, like less regular community meetings, and check-ins will curb the abusive behaviour of intimate partners as they would believe that they are more likely to get caught if they are abusive.
The government should also arrange safe accommodation for the sufferers who need it so that anyone experiencing domestic abuse can seek protection during this Covid-19 crisis.
In this Covid-19 situation, being stuck at home is difficult but think about those people who are at home with an abuser and getting abused physically or mentally every day. It is indeed a nightmare for them.
Mehadi Hasan is a student of Law, North South University.