Divorce and Domestic Violence – Why Have the Cases Gone Up During the Lockdown

Domestic violence isn’t a thing of the past. We are in 2020 and not much has changed with regards to domestic violence. The topic continues to be swept under the carpet and we’ll probably never know someone is a victim of domestic violence unless they reach out to us. The current lockdown has made things worse for domestic violence victims.

Domestic violence:

Domestic violence involves any behaviour that is done to gain power over a spouse/ partner/ partner’s family member. It could be physical, sexual, verbal or economic abuse. In a country like India where men are generally considered superior, many of them feel they are entitled to control their partner as they please. Many abusers don’t even know that they are committing a crime.

Prevalence of domestic violence:

  • As per statements of WHO in 2017, globally 1 in 3 women experience physical/ sexual abuse
  • As per the National Family Health Survey IV (2015 – 2016), 31% of married women aged between 15 and 49 years admitted of experiencing spousal violence at least once
  • As per The National Crime Bureau Reports, 31.9% of the cases registered involved cruelty by the victim’s husband and his family members.

Domestic violence is prevalent worldwide. It is a compelling issue that needs to be addressed. Sadly many of the victims aren’t ready to speak up and we can’t blame them for it. The domestic violence episodes make them feel powerless and unworthy and they continue to bear the brunt in silence.

The sharp rise in domestic abuse cases after lockdown in India:

The lockdown imposed due to the corona virus has increased the number of domestic violence occurrences The chair person of National Commission for Women has stated that they are lately receiving more domestic violence complaints.  The fact that only few speak up and the rest of the cases go unnoticed makes it evident that there are more unreported cases.

How is the lockdown impacting domestic violence victims?

lockdown impacting domestic violence

Women who were regularly going through domestic violence find the current situation scarier. The number of complaints has almost doubled. In some places where they received on an average of 1 complaint a day, the count has increased to 9 per day. This is because:

  • Abusers are frustrated about the constraints associated with the lockdown. Due to the lack of control, they take it out on their partner more violently and often.
  • Women don’t have a safe haven or a workplace where they can temporarily seek refuge. They are stuck with their partners at home all day, while some have no way to raise an alert for help.
  • Many women are treated like domestic workers and are facing more taunts from their partner and family members
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol/ withdrawal symptoms of alcohol have given rise to domestic abuse and marital rapes

To make things easier for women, the National Commission of Women has launched a WhatsApp helpline to raise complaints. This discreet way of raising complaints is extremely helpful for women who are unable to make calls directly to helpline numbers. It is important for more women to speak up.

Many are worried about the implications of divorce that could follow and choose to stay tight-lipped. They are worried about what society will think of them and how they’ll proceed with things financially. There are laws solely designed on protecting the rights of women. If the victims understand the laws, they’ll feel confident to raise a complaint without worrying about the implications of divorce.

Laws pertaining to domestic violence:

Dowry Prohibition Act 1961:

It restricts the giving and receiving of dowry, which could be in the form of goods, property or money. If a woman’s husband and his family pressurizes her for the dowry, then actions can be taken against them.

Section 498 A:

The following acts are considered a crime as per this section:

  • Mental or physical harassment for dowry is a crime
  • Forced sex is categorized as cruelty
  • Any act that drives a woman to take her life or leaves her with injuries

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005:

The act protects the rights of women who are in a domestic relationship. Domestic relationship refers to any relationship where 2 people stay together in a shared household, which includes blood relations, related by marriage, live-in relationships, related through adoption and family members in a joint family. The victim has the right to:

  • Obtain an order of protection against her spouse (respondent) and his family members
  • She can continue to live in the same house. The other family members cannot send the victim out.
  • The victim can claim for maintenance and custody of children without applying for divorce
  • The respondents will face penalty if they don’t follow orders

These laws aren’t without practical difficulties. It isn’t easy for the victim to repeat their ordeal nth number of times. They could feel powerless and humiliated each time when they talk about it. However, with legal help, they can come out of their difficult situation and go on to lead an independent life.

The rise in a number of divorce cases during the lockdown:

There is a growing trend of divorce cases with Mumbai topping the list. The average number of divorce cases in Mumbai in a month is 1280 and now it has tripled to 3480. The work from home part has put people under a lot of stress. The household chores add up to the pressure, which is one of the reasons for the increase in divorce cases apart from domestic violence.

Many couples are consulting advocates and going ahead with out-of-court settlements. This amicable settlement works better and cuts down on stress. During these difficult times, peoples should bear in mind that there are laws to protect them.

Domestic violence is a crime. If you are a victim of domestic violence, break the silence. Don’t let the perpetrator take advantage of your silence. Help is readily available everywhere. You just have to reach out for help.

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