“The first time it happened was when I was a 10-year-old. Another time when I was 13 and then when I was 17. It was all good after that. I never expected it to happen again. But the, when the country was in a lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it happened again. Our family of four was playing Ludo when a minor argument got escalated. Papa got up hit me, again. He later justified it as an action taken in the heat of the moment. But I knew it was not just that. It was only because he considered me, a woman, unequal and unharmful. I knew he hit me again, and again because he knew I could never harm or hurt him back, in any way,” shared a girl currently studying in Delhi University.
As the Prime Minister announced lockdown for another 20 days and as the world talks about how the pandemic comes with economic and mental strains on people, women suffer incidences of domestic violence and sexual abuse in their homes. Locked in a house for 24 hours with their perpetrators, women are suffering in the pandemic more than the men.
From 23 March to 1 April, a total of 257 cases were registered online, according to the data recorded by the National Commission for Women and from 2 March to 8 March, a total of 116 cases were recorded. Out of which, 13 cases were of rape or attempt to rape, whereas domestic abuse saw a rise to 69 recorded cases, as of 1 April. While thinking about the rise in the number of cases of crime against women, one answer that seems clear enough is that the abuser knows, the woman cannot move out of the house or cannot go out to the police station to report the crime. While thinking about how the pandemic might create a problem for the daily wage workers and the poor, it is imperative to also create helplines and policies for women to seek help. But are we even talking about it enough?
France has gained international recognition for its initiative to curb gendered violence amidst lockdown. During the first week of their national lockdown, France too saw a rise of cases of crimes against women. The Gender Equality Minister if France, Marlene Schiappa announced that 20 counselling centres would be open in shops so that women can drop by in case they need any help while buying groceries. The government has also announced that it would pay for hotel rooms for victims of domestic violence and an extra one-million euros for the funding of anti-domestic abuse organisations.
Women, like all times, are one section of the population who have been ignored from the negative consequences of the pandemic. The burden comes not just from domestic and sexual abuse but also from the fact of how society’s sexist nature becomes more evident than even when all the members of a family live together, all 24 hours. A large share of a female homemaker’s unpaid work burden has always been shared by the domestic workers or maids. However, now they too have been forced to be let go of. Children are not going to school, men are not attending their offices, the elderly have to be taken extra care of since they are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, all the burden falls upon one person. The workload has been increased only for one person. Certain members of the family who regularly attend office are now working from their homes. The homemaker now has to make breakfast and lunch accordingly even though the situation is far from normal for her too.
In times like these when the citizens require all the attention of the government, it blindly creates policies. Women need gendered policies and more solutions towards making their lives easier during the times of a pandemic. While not also denying the fact that the poor also require the most amount of attention but the women in every scenario have been conveniently ignored by those in power. Before formulating any policy in as sensitive times like these, all minorities and all vulnerable groups of people should be taken in regard before any data or any survey starts demanding so.
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