No rise in domestic violence cases, says NCW chairperson

Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW) Rekha Sharma denied on Tuesday that there was a spurt in domestic violence in the country.

She said that there was only a rise in reporting of such crimes.

Her response was to a report in The Hindu on a 2.5 times spike in domestic violence complaints registered by the NCW between March 25 and May 31.

“The increase in domestic violence complaints shows a spike in reporting, not necessarily a rise in such incidents or crimes. We started a new WhatsApp helpline number during the lockdown to help women to report, which led to an increase in the number of complaints”, Ms. Sharma told The Hindu.

She emphasised that 99% of the complaints received by the NCW were “not new cases”.

“Many survivors who have approached us say they have been experiencing violence at home for past several years. These are not new cases”.

Between March 25 and May 31, the NCW received 1,477 complaints of domestic violence. Nearly 727 of them were received on its WhatsApp helpline (+917217735372 ) set up in April to ensure women, who couldn’t access emails or send complaints by post, could receive help

The total complaints during the 68-day period were 2.5 times of the 607 of complaints received between March and May last year.

Activists worried

Activists said that the rise in complaints is in itself worrisome because it shows that women who have been experiencing domestic violence in the past are reaching their breaking point during the lockdown and are compelled to seek help.

They stressed on the need to move beyond numbers and called upon the government to develop a robust response mechanism to ensure access to emergency services..

“Domestic violence was there before and during COVID-19 and will continue even after the pandemic. Domestic violence during the lockdown has exacerbated because women are living with their perpetrators 24/7 and we have seen a massive increase in the severity of violence. The dichotomy is that women are reporting domestic violence but the lockdown has severely restricted their access to relevant support services,” says Anuradha Kapoor of Kolkata-based NGO Swayam.

Emergency response

Sangeeta Rege of CEHAT (Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes) says, “There is no clear data to substantiate whether there is an increase in cases, but the evidence from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4, which shows that 30% women in India are domestic violence survivors, is good enough.”

“The government must look at the various precarious conditions during the lockdown that could aggravate domestic violence. A lockdown has severe repercussions for women. Where is the State response when it is needed the most? Women are rendered helpless because there are no shelter homes, police are overwhelmed, there is no access to sexual and reproductive health services as medical staff are diverted to manage COVID-19,” she said.

According to NFHS-4 (2015-2016), 25.3% women in urban India and 34.1% in rural India faced spousal violence.

Poonam Kathuria, of the Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiative (SWATI) in Ahmedabad, says that while the Central government instructed One Stop Centres and Women Helplines to remain open, and in many States these services did function well, there was a need to go beyond giving an order and following it up with a detailed guideline to ensure that allied emergency services were functional too. “

This would have helped avoid a situation where a survivor of domestic violence stepped out to seek help but the police booked her for violating Section 144,” Ms. Kathuria said. SWATI’s hospital-based counselling cells have seen a two- fold rise in survivors seeking help since March.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 12:55:44 PM |

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