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Domestic Violence In The View Of Covid-19

COVID-19 which has been declared a global pandemic, many countries are making policies to deal with it in every possible aspect. Many measures have been announced by the countries to reduce the spread of disease. However, even after taking a lot of measures, there have been unintended, negative consequences. As the virus continues to affect all over the world, it brings in several new stress along with it such as isolation and loneliness, physical and psychological health risk, closure of many businesses, and job losses.

Domestic violence is one of the major problems during this lockdown as women are affected physically and psychologically. Though along with the women children are particularly vulnerable to the risk of domestic violence. Domestic violence can be defined as the physical, sexual or economic violence that is committed by the elder member of the family or the intimate partner.
With the spread of Covid-19 in almost every country and as a measure of prevention countries have adopted lockdown and social distancing as its chief weapon for now till a permanent cure is made available. The preventive measures have led to the lockdown of many business areas, closure of schools and colleges, etc.

But this preventive the measure may be seen as a safety measure against Covid-19 but the other aspects of human security have been grossly challenged. Though at one hand government has become somewhat successful in providing safety to residents from COVID many such sectors was left strategized and thus exposed the residents to those risks. One such is domestic violence. Reports have come across the globe that domestic violence such as child abuse, pet abuse and many more such violence cases have seen a significant increase after the lockdown.

Violence is seen to be administered on the powerless section by the powerful section. In India women and children are considered as powerless sections as most of the female fraternity is dependent on the male fraternity. Due to the dependency of the wife and children on husband and father respectively it is have seen that they use violence on them as a symbol of control. Generally, domestic violence abusers isolate their victims in order to reduce the possibility of disclosure of abuse or as a method of control. The current conditions of society are likely to further impact these actions.[1]

Lockdown has affected the economic and social lifestyle of people as well as the psychological conditions of people. College, workplaces acted as emotional support to the people. Families who are victims of domestic abuse in the past used to get help from these places due to social interaction. But after the lockdown, their emotional support is snatched. Moreover, as the reports suggest the abusers generally cut all support that victims should get by isolating or restrictions the movement of victims.

It is reported that the number of domestic violence complaints received by the National Commission for Women had doubled.[2] Violence against women is considered as a most grievous violation against human rights. Violence against women results in serious physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health problems. In some cases, violence may result in death.

Definition and types of domestic Violence:

Domestic violence can be defined as the violence done against a woman by a husband or intimate partner. The World Human Rights Conference in Vienna, first recognized gender-based violence as a human rights violation in 1993. United Nations defined violence against a woman as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to a woman, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.[3]

Types of violence:

  • Physical violence

    This type of violence happens in a family where the intention is to cause the feeling of pain or bodily harm. Aggressive behavior is shown towards the wife like hitting her, burning her, dowry related violence. It is not necessary that physical harm must be inflicted. Deriving the victim of other functions to live comes under physical violence.
  • Sexual violence

    Sexual abuse is when a woman is forced to have sex without her consent. Even involving women in such sexual activities which will cause her pain where the sexual activity has been done in the past comes under this type of violence. Example: - Marital rape, harassment, demeaning the life of the victim etc.
  • Economic violence

    In economic violence, the abuser has control over the victims of all economic resources.[4] The aim behind this kind of violence is to diminish the victim's resources so as the victim will be dependent on the abuser for her day to day expenses and essential commodities. e.g.: - the victim from the money she is entitled, isolating the victim so that she won't get any financial help, etc.

Domestic violence In India

In India, the lockdown has been imposed on 24th March 2019 which continued up till 8th June 2019. A home that is considered to be the safest place during this lockdown is turning to be unsafe for some people, especially for the victims of domestic violence. Coronavirus has exposed the precarious lives and invisible faces of hunger, and predominate among those are women.[5]

How domestic violence is affected amid of Covid-19 is discussed here:

  • History
    Domestic violence is a historic immoral practice that continues to exist and remains hidden from the eyes of society for a long period. In the 1980s, India reorganized this as the human rights issue due to an increasing number of dowry deaths which resulted in the addition of Section 498-A[6]. Section 498-A, states that the husband or his relative shall be punished for the term of three years and will also be liable for the fine in case of cruelty performed towards the women. With evolving law and society it has been considered as the public health issue. Thus, the government is taking this matter more seriously than before but there are aspects which needs improvement.
  • Reports 
    According to the report published by the National Crime Research Bureau in the year 2018, the crime recorded in India is in every 1.7 minutes against the women and every 4.4 minutes of women are subject to domestic violence.[7] As per the data more crimes were reported across India in the year 2018 as compared to cases registered against women in the year 2017. The National family health survey, 2016-16 highlighted that in India 30 percent of women went through the pain of Domestic violence. Among married women report shows that 83% of the women were subjected to the violence by their husband, followed by the husband's mother (56%), siblings (27%), and father (33%).[8]

    These statistics don't provide us the exact number of the violence going around in the country because of the prevalence of the orthodox social norms on domestic violence most of the case remains underreported. Most of the women don't report the cases due to the fear of their in-laws and the problem that they might face after their husband/partner is released.[9]
  • Current Reports
    National Commission for Women (NCW) show that there have been 587 registered domestic violence complaints between 23rd March and 16th April which is a significant rise in the report between 27th February and 22 th March which was 396 between these months. The report also shows that one in every six complaints is launched via WhatsApp.[10] NCW had published the email address of their officials to receive the complaints through their online portals as a lockdown measure as its traditional modes, i.e. post and direct registering to complain would be a difficult procedure in lockdown. But in India where the only 1/3rd  of the women have access to the internet most of the cases remain unreported. It is so as victims do not get access to cell phones most of the time.

It is not that domestic violence against women has not been reported earlier. But amid Covid-19, the psychological factors are being affected to the most. The virus has mirrored the discrimination and oppression against women which exists in a male-dominated patriarchal society for centuries. Also, Covid-19 has struck the economy of the lower middle class and BPL families. A woman who was considered as a lower rung in many of such families after the lockdown had completely been economically empowered. Further, during the lockdown, women were expected to take up traditional gender roles, i.e. domestic work negligible contribution from men.[11]

In many such families we have seen that a Lakshman Rekha has already been existing before lockdown for women. All these have led to a woman being considered as second-class citizens. Thus, caged in a violent home the woman is being placed in such a situation from where it will be difficult for them to seek help. Thus, domestic abuse cases are certainly on a rise after lockdown.

Factors aiding for domestic Abuse:

Any type of violence shows the mentality of that person or society.

There theories which have been given as to what is the real cause of domestic violence are:

  • Psychological

    According to the theory of personality traits, a person has primary and secondary personality traits. Primary traits are responsible for what you show to another person. While secondary traits are generally shown in front of your trusted people or close ones only. Anger, poor impulse control etc. are such traits which come under secondary personality traits and is responsible for domestic violence in many such cases. These traits have been developed in childhood and if left unchecked it will become more when the child becomes an adult. Reports suggest that about 80% of men accused as abusers' studies exhibited typical personality disorders.[12]
  • Stress

    Stress has the biggest play in any type of violence. Stress increases when people are confined and their movements are restricted. Due to financial problem stress may be increased in a family which attracts tension.[13]Violence is always caused by stress and many people found violence to be an act which relieves their stress.[14] Families in poverty may be more likely to experience domestic violence, due to increased stress and conflicts about finances and other aspects.[15]
  • Behavior and jealous

    It is reported that men and families are generally patriarchy in India. They consider male fraternity to be superior than the female fraternity. If wife exceeds in any part of life than the husband feels jealous of her. Also, many such cases of domestic violence happen as the husband is jealous of his wife or when he suspects her to leave him if she becomes independent.[16]

Way Forward
While the government was putting all the blueprints of the plan together for COVID-19 the problem of domestic violence should have been prioritized. In India where domestic violence is one of the major concerns, it seems that the government has overlooked the mental health repercussions that will be caused by domestic violence during the period of lockdown.

Like various other countries, India should have taken the step to control the gender-based violence. For instance, in a country like France efforts have been made to find the solution to protect the victims from domestic violence.

The France government has asked the victims to report domestic abuse at pharmacies and the same report would be submitted by the pharmacies to the police station. France government has also provided the facilities for renting hotel rooms to accommodate the victims.

A similar step could have been taken in India to curb the increase of gender-based violence as during the lockdown all the essential shops and pharmacies were open, all the locals should have assured that the name of the person registering the complaint won't be disclosed. In this way, those who couldn't reach the police station or those who didn't have access to their cell phones could have registered their complaints in near

  1. Campbell Andrew, An increasing risk of domestic Violence during COVID-19 Pandemic, FSI:Report,1,2-3(2020),
  2. COVID-19, Domestic Abuse and violence: Where do Indian women stand? ISSN- 2349-8846,EPW Engage, 1,1,2020,
  3. Voilence Against Women, UN Women, Last Visited on 9th Jul 2020.
  4. Brewster, M. P. Journal of Family Violence, 18 (4): 2003; 207–217
  5. Jhabvala (2020) Women: The Invisible face of hunger, The Hindustan Times, May 10,, last Visitied on 10th Jul, 2020.
  6. Patharya Kaamila, Domestic Violence and Indian women's movement: A short History,11,Inquries,1,1(2017).
  7. Violence against women, World Health organisation (Nov 29, 2017)
  8. ForumIAS, addressing Domestic Violence: a forgotten agenda while locking India down, ForumIAS(Apr 11, 2020)
  9. Roy Deb Lachmi, Domestic Violence causes across India since coronavirus lockdown, Outlook, (Apr 12,2020).
  10. India witnessed a  steep rise in crime against women amidst lockdown, 587 Complains received: NCW, ET(Apr 17, 2020, 5:59 PM )
  11. Shekhar J Divya, What COVID-19 Lockdown tells us about gender gap in house work, Forbes India, (2020),, Last Visitied on 10th Jul, 2020.
  12. Hart S. D., Dutton D. G., Newlove T. "The Prevalence of Personality Disorder among Wife Assaulters". Journal of Personality Disorders 7 (4): 1993; 329.
  13. Aneshensel C. S. "Social Stress: Theory and Research". Annual Review of Sociology 1992; 18: 15–38.
  14. Jewkes, R. "Intimate partner violence: Causes and prevention". The Lancet 359 (9315): 2002; 1423–1429
  15. Murphy C. M., Meyer S. L., O'Leary K. D. "Family of origin violence and MCMI-II psychopathology among partner assaultive men". Violence and victims 1993; 8 (2): 165–176.
  16. Bonem M., Stanely Kime K.L., Corbin M. "A behavioral approach to domestic violence". Journal of Behavior Analysis of Offender and Victim: Treatment and Prevention 1 (4): 2008; 210–213.

    Written By:

    1. Priyanshi Bainwala
    2. Yash

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