Pandemic has had multiple impacts on humankind regarding mental health, employment status, survival, and other factors. But it has increased atrocities faced by women. The increasing crime rates, complaints received, and published reports indicate that gender-based violence worsened during the lockdown.
The National Commission for Women received 26513 complaints from women in 2020-2021 compared to the 20309 complaints registered in 2019-2020, as The New Indian Express reported. Domestic violence complaints almost doubled from 3369 in 2020 to 6049 in 2021.
In 2020, maximum complaints amounting to 7715 received were under the nature of the violation of their Right to Live with dignity, as stated by the NCW report. Moreover, a report by UNICEF said that NCW recorded a more than two-fold surge in complaints of violence against women in the week following the lockdown.
Gender-Based Violence Cases
Various factors indicate that such an increase in violence against women could be attributed to the pandemic. The UNICEF report states that the risk of gender-based violence for women, violence against children and sexual minorities increases during a crisis. Physical distancing, restrictions on mobility, fear of getting infection and confinement at home, and increased tensions and economic stress could increase the risk of gender-based violence. Moreover, another arena where the threat of violence against women, girls and others in vulnerable situations may increase are online platforms.
Since people were suggested to stay in their homes to curb the spread of the virus, women were doubly impacted not only with economic and other losses but increased workload of housework which got worse with instances of domestic violence, a report by Mumbai-based NGO Akshara stated, as reported by Frontline.
The situation got worse for women as the regular support of hospitals, the police, government welfare cells, dedicated help-lines, shelter homes, and legal aids they could get during the pre-covid times was now restricted. It happened because certain bodies became non-functional or were coping with Covid restrictions and other duties.
Curbs on transport facilities also made it tough for women to step out for help or get in touch with another family member; Swayam, a feminist organization, was quoted in the report.
Emotional overload and violence was also an after-effect of lockdown periods. Apart from facing emotional abuse, women were subjected to various types of emotional abuse. A Lucknow-based feminist group. Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives was quoted in the report saying, "Women had to become sponges that absorbed all the accumulated frustrations of everyone in the family. They did not want to talk about it because they felt they should not add to the family's stress levels."
Impact On Mental Health
In a journal published in the 'International Journal of Law and Social Sciences, economic stress and domestic violence have been equated in a reciprocal relationship. It drew the parallel between an increase in job loss with a consequent increase in domestic violence cases. Forty million people in the unorganized sector, with 84 percent of the Indian households seeing a decrease in their economy after the pandemic hit. Economic stress in turn reflected through anxiety and helplessness which was later projected on women in the form of frustration. Moreover, the situation seems even worse when we see that many domestic violence cases go underreported.
The after-effects of such physical violence also include psychological impacts on the mental health of the victims. When a pandemic was affecting many people mentally, the situation was far off worse for women.
UN addressed the rising gender-based violence as a "Shadow Pandemic". A report by UN Women states that 7 in 10 women think domestic violence has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic. Since conflicts with adults have increased, the chances of physical violence have increased too. Moreover, 2 in 5 women said that Covid-19 had worsened their overall mental and emotional health. Women who experienced violence during Covid-10 were 1.3 times as likely to report increased mental and emotional distress as compared who did not.
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