In its second week, the 21-day lockdown has caused many inconveniences to the public, especially for workers who live a hand to mouth existence and domestic violence victims whose plight is often ignored.
Reports of domestic violence have increased in March, nationwide and in the state as well due to the lockdown and quarantine which have raised concerns about family safety. The National Commission for Women (NCW), which receives complaints from across the country, has reportedly received reports more than twice as compared to normal circumstances in gender-based violence. According to the Hindu, in the capital Delhi, complaints from women have risen from 116 in the first week of March (March 2- 8) to 257 in the final week of March (March 23-April 1). Cases of domestic violence have increased from 30 to 69 over the same timeline shown by the data released by the National Commission for Women. NCW. Many activists and advocates in the nation’s capital believe that the reason for this may only be the start in problems for victims as many women will not be able to reach out for help due to the restrictions in movements and that the financial stress of the COVID-19 alone has created a time bomb for families with a history of domestic violence.
In times when a crisis or a calamity takes place in the country, there can be seen an increase in violence against women. Due to the COVID-19 and the lockdown that followed with it in India there has been a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in the minds of the working class people -if they will ever find another job, or will they suffer from pay cuts whether they do find a job, if they will suffer pay cuts and in a society like India’s, which is more than often very patriarchal, men find women easy targets or punching bags to vent out their anger. Even though the strict lockdown is being implemented to check the spread of infection of the COVID-19, it may have caused closing down of women’s avenues to escape violence like- relocating to their maternal homes.
Likewise, Sikkim State Commission for Women (SSCW) on Monday informed Sikkim Chronicle that since the lockdown from 25 March, 6 cases of domestic violence have been registered with SSCW. In addition Sikkim Chronicle also talked to individuals at the One Stop Crisis Centre which functions under the Social Justice and Welfare Department. Chimi Bhutia, Central Administrator (East District) of One Stop Crisis Centre informed that since the lockdown in Sikkim, there recently was a report of domestic violence in South Sikkim. The victim had pursued the help of the One Stop Crisis Centre, South Sikkim, because her husband being an alcoholic, had mentally abused the victim. One Stop’s South district Administrator, Sangita Gurung came to the rescue and with assistance from the Melli Police Station, were able to give a warning to the husband to stop the abuse. The victim has also been offered shelter by the Crisis Centre, who continue to follow up on the case. One Stop Crisis Centre is operating in all four districts of the state despite the lockdown and are willing to provide victims with doorstep aid, counseling and transportation services in case of emergencies. Domestic violence victims can call at 181 for aid and assistance.
However, not everyone gets as lucky as the victim of this said incident. Many such incidents go unreported. Some may not seek help, fearing the society, or at times like these, due to the restrictions on movement, but most believe that violence after drinking is ‘normal’ and is ‘just a phase’ and everything will be fine the next day. Also, the above incident brings forth a question— Despite of the lockdown and closing of all liquor shops made compulsory by the State Excise Department, why/how do shops seem to continue selling alcohol, despite repeated warnings?