AUTHOR- Kareena Wadhwani, Indore Institute of Law.
India imposed a mandatory lockdown after looking at the severe situations confronted by COVID-19 pandemic. Besides challenges like providing shelter and food to migrant workers and efforts to stabilize the economy, violence against women during lockdown remains ignored. We live in a country where patriarchal system is still followed and crimes like rapes, domestic violence and cyber crimes are not uncommon. Staying confined in homes with abusive partners has become a reason for physical and emotional violence, affecting their health and mental state. Both men and women are affected by these restrictions, but it is evident that women are facing more traumatising situations.
Keywords: Lockdown, Women, Rapes, Domestic Violence.
Rapes During Lockdown
Rape is defined under Section 375 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. India is among the countries where most number of rape cases are registered annually. However, it was expected that there will be an improvement in this situation as everyone will be confined in their homes. But, statistics tell a different story. Sixty Six rape cases were registered only in the state of Haryana, seventy cases in Madhya Pradesh, twenty one in Delhi and many more. The shocking fact is that people involved in most of these cases were either closed ones or family members. An 18- year old girl was raped twice by her father, while her mother was supporting him in this heinous crime. In Rajasthan, a woman was gang raped by her husband and his friends. There are many instances where women were compelled for sexual intercourse with her husband causing mental disturbance among them, but there are no laws regarding marital rape in India. Exception 2 of Section 375 exempts unwilling sexual intercourse between a husband and a wife over fifteen years of age from Section 375’s definition of “rape” and thus immunizes such acts from prosecution. India is among the thirty six countries that has still not criminalized marital rape. In Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration it was held that choices regarding sexual intercourse fall under Article 21 of India Constitution. Inspite of these precedents there is no proper law that criminalizes this act.
Domestic Violence During Lockdown
Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code defines the domestic violence. There is a 34% rise in the cases of domestic violence between 20th March to 20th June. Highest numbers of cases related to domestic violence were reported in this lockdown. These cases are being seen not only from rural areas but also the cities, showing that patriarchy has no boundaries. These figures signify that the chances of death ratio among women are double due to this lockdown as they are kept with violent men. There is nothing like women were not abused before this pandemic, but this lockdown has been successful in magnifying these assaults and gender inequalities. As per National Family Health Survey, 42% men and 52% women think that husband is justified to beat his wife and it happens only when she disobeys her husband or argues in certain cases. There is a less seriousness regarding this matter because of less support by the families and unavailability of psychological assistance for these women. Besides this, many women working as daily wage workers have lost their jobs, leading to economic dependence on their husbands and being a reason for living with their husband undesirably.
Cyber Crimes During Lockdown
There are 60 crore internet users in India and therefore, paving a way for increased number of cyber crimes, especially among women. As per National Commission for Women, total number of 412 cyber complaints were filed by women in just one month. Out of these, 396 complaints were really serious and involved rape threats, obscene pictures, malicious emails, blackmailing. There were also reports of hacking of accounts by some girls. Average number of 20 complaints were reported in the first 15 days of lockdown. Sextortion, i.e. extorting money or sexual favours from someone by threatening them to reveal evidence of their sexual activity through means like morphed images was also seen a significant increase. Creation of fake accounts, online stalking and posting of insensitive comments have become serious challenges to copeup with at this point of time.
How Covid-19 Is Changing The Concept Of Homes?
Corona virus has been successful in revealing the ugly face of homes that were always seen as a place for privacy, pleasure, security, togetherness, etc. After this lockdown, the mentality of homes being a comfort zone has totally changed. This lockdown has increased workload among women, and adding discomfort to their mental state through such crime will be dangerous for their mental and physical health. In poor families, women have always been facing denial of basic necessities and with this decision and less income due to unemployment, problems have increased for them. Besides starvation, stress and frustration of being at home has caused more mental disturbance for men and therefore, providing a ground to torture women of the house. It has proved that women are not safe in their homes too. This situation is seen not only in India, but other countries like too. However, their ways of dealing with it is a bit better than that in India.
Government must ensure the safety against viruses residing in Indian homes. This crisis has made us realize the serious need for abolishment of patriarchal norms even more. Homes are not chambers of torture to women. To deal with it, these crimes must be involved in essential services, so that providing them with justice becomes easier and faster. Also providing them basic necessity items like menstrual pads, medicines and contraceptives must be taken care of. There should be immediate proceedings to curb this situation. Home must be made safe zones not just from this pandemic, but also the unwanted actions dwelling in society. India has a long way to go in gender equality, and there cannot be a better decision than beginning it from home. When homes be a better place, the country will automatically uplift.
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 Section 375 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.  Exception (2) of Section 375 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.  Suchita Srivastava & Anr. v. Chandigarh Administration, SCC, SC, 9, p 1.  Article 21 of Constitution of India.  Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860.