Locked Down, Locked in: Women Stuck Between COVID & Domestic Abuse

Does the lockdown lack a gendered approach in tackling what the UN Women termed as a “shadow pandemic”?

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Stay home, stay safe.

The irony of this philosophy to beat the COVID-19 pandemic isn't lost on domestic abuse survivors the world over, because for them, staying home is hardly staying safe.

Last month, the United Nations Women said, "As more countries report infection and lockdown, more domestic violence helplines across the world are reporting rising calls for help. It’s a perfect storm for controlling, violent behaviour behind closed doors, as confinement is fostering the tension and strain created by security, health, and money worries."

In our home turf, with people's movements being strictly restricted for the last 50 days, helplines numbers are buzzing with reports of mental and physical abuse accentuated by confined living conditions.

Between 23 March and 16 April, there were 587 distress calls made to the National Commission for Women. This is just in the first 24 days of lockdown. According to its Chairman Rekha Sharma, domestic violence cases in India have shot up by almost 50 percent overall during the lockdown. Like the NCW, all NGOs working on women's safety have also reported a spike.

Where is India going wrong as a country? Does the lockdown lack a gendered approach in tackling what the UN Women termed as a shadow pandemic? And are these helpline numbers enough to address the issue of domestic violence?

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