Lockdown intensifies domestic violence | Sunday Observer

Lockdown intensifies domestic violence

5 April, 2020

For over a month many countries across the world have been in lockdown. People have been ordered to stay home and practise social distancing by their governments in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But as the virus rapidly spreads across the world forcing people to stay home a host of social issues have cropped up as a result. Among the many issues, activists over the world have pointed out the increase of domestic violence due to the lockdown resulting in victims having to live with their abusers round the clock. For governments fighting a tough battle to combat COVID-19, this was not an issue they had anticipated.

According to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, restrictive measures adopted worldwide to fight COVID-19 has intensified the risk of domestic violence. Simonovic, therefore, has called on governments to uphold the human rights of women and children and come up with urgent measures to help victims of such violence.

Many European countries have reported a sudden increase in domestic violence.

France’s Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Marlène Schiappa this week revealed that a week after going into lockdown domestic violence increased to 32 percent in the country while it rose by 36 percent in the city of Paris alone.

In Neighbouring India beatings and abuse of women in lockdown with their husbands too have been trickling in. The National Commission of Women in India had received 58 complaints of abuse but is believed to be just a handful of incidents taking place. In a statement, the Commission said it believes numbers are increasing as men frustrated at having to stay home are taking it out on their wives.

Simonovic has warned that the rates of domestic violence would only increase as suggested by Police reports. “For too many women and children, home can be a place of fear and abuse. The situation worsens considerably in cases of isolation such as lockdowns imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic," she said.

"The risk is aggravated in a time when there are none or fewer shelters and help services available for victims; when it is difficult to access those that are still open; and when there is less community support; fewer police interventions and less access to justice as many courts are closed," she added.

The UN expert said for many women, the emergency measures needed to fight COVID-19 have increased their burden regarding domestic work and the care of children, elderly relatives, and sick family members.

In Sri Lanka, the issue was first brought into focus by the Chief Nurse of the National Hospital Pushpa Zoysa. Posting on her social media page on March 22 Zoysa noted that while daily patient numbers have decreased since the COVID-19 outbreak from 250 to just 66, many of them had been wives assaulted by their husbands.

While the exact number of domestic violence since the imposing of curfew last month remains unknown, according to her between March 21 - 23, 15 women believed to be victims of domestic violence had been admitted to the hospital. Social media posts seeking help for known victims have also started to crop up.

This has led local activists to commence an awareness campaign on social media to educate victims and inform them that many helplines dedicated to them are still in operation. With the tagline ‘Don’t stay silent in Sri Lanka’ the campaign urges victims to call the Police on either 0112444 444 or 119 to report violence against them during the curfew.

Meanwhile, Simonovic has called on governments not to put the protection of victims on hold and urged them to continue to combat domestic violence in the time of COVID-19. “Measures to protect victims must remain available or be adopted during the crisis.

That includes ensuring access to protection by restraining orders and maintaining safe shelters and helplines for the victims. The police should increase their efforts for rapid action” she said.

"As making phone calls might be dangerous in a context of home confinement, helplines can facilitate the access by providing online chats and texting services for victims. States should also come up with new and creative solutions to support them," the expert said.

"Governments must not allow the extraordinary circumstances and restrictive measures against COVID-19 to lead to the violation of women's right to a life free from violence," she added.