The National Commission for Women has said it had seen a 30% rise in complaints of crimes against women in 2021, compared to 2020. Nearly 31,000 complaints of crimes against women were received by the Commission for last year, the highest since 2014. Of these, over 6,000 were related to domestic violence and over 4,000 were to do with dowry harassment.
In 2020 also, the Commission had received a record high number of complaints, one quarter of them related to domestic violence -- in just April and May of that year, during the nation-wide lockdown, 47.2% of the cases it received were of domestic violence, by comparison, barely 21% of cases received between January and March were to do with this.
Domestic violence has sometimes been referred to as the 'shadow pandemic' -- as the world faced an unprecedented crisis and lockdowns became the norm in several countries, not only did women find themselves locked in with their abusers at home, they also lost access to support services outside. The economic distress faced by millions exacerbated the problem.
In India, organisations working with women have reported a huge spike in cases -- men and women lost their jobs, many members of a family were forced to stay together often in small quarters -- not only did women have more household work than usual, they also had little access to the outside, and their support systems dwindled.
At the same time, many girls and young women who would ordinarily have been in school and college, have been confined to their homes -- potentially increasing their vulnerability to violence and also to the threat of cyber crimes.
Did we have any mechanisms in place to help support survivors of violence through the pandemic? What legal and social structures do we need to have? What happens when fewer women use public places, and will this have an effect on women's safety in the future? And how well has the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 been implemented?
Guest: Swarna Rajagopalan , founder of Prajnya, a non-profit that works in the area of gender equality
Host: Zubeda Hamid
Edited by Reenu Cyriac