Has the lockdown been an enabler of a second pandemic in the shadow of the ongoing crisis?
As the world fights with one crisis, women have been fighting with another pandemic of their own. The country had entered into lockdown on March 25, 2020, and domestic violence cases have seen a surge since then. Multiple incidents of violence and physical abuse from various parts of the country have been reported over the course of the last two months.
While some of us were just worried about not being able to meet our friends, others had greater things to worry about—for them, staying inside the houses with abusive parents, partners, etc. have been no less than a nightmare. While there has been a fall in cases of eve-teasing, rapes and molestations due to lockdown, the most shocking data that has come in light is that in India domestic violence cases has increased almost a 100%.
If this doesn’t shake our conscience regarding the conditions of women, then I don’t know what else will. An article by the Deccan Herald on April 26 highlighted that the National Commission of Women had received 239 complaints in the period between March 25 and April 25. This was almost twice the number of complaints received during the period of February 25 and March 25.
The two most central reasons responsible for the increase in domestic violence are alcoholism and the ingrained patriarchy that the society has filled us with. Lockdown added further problems for the families of raging alcoholics and addicts.
Women with alcoholic husbands, fathers or any male members for that matter have been the worst victims of physical abuse and torture. Not only are the male members taking their frustrations out on the female counterparts but also inhumanly beating them up and pressurizing them to cater to their whims and fancies more than they would have done under normal circumstances.
The ingrained thought in our mind that the women of the house, especially the ones who have taken up the roles of housewives and mothers, are supposed to cater to all our needs, irrespective of what they are going through, reflects how we have taken the care work that they do for us for granted and have assumed that they are bound to do so. This very notion has become a rope around the neck of most women.
The ingrained patriarchy allows people to take advantage of the unpaid labour and care work that women do at home, and when their expectations aren’t met or women fall short of their expectations, they are tortured and abused.
The lockdown has trapped people inside their houses and the frustrations that are fuming in them are taken out on the women of the households who are being treated as mere vending machines of fulfilling desires. Women, since time immemorial, haven’t been respected for their care work of raising children and maintaining the households. Instead their unpaid labour is exploited, and they are in turn expected to follow everyone’s wishlists like a mere puppet in the name of love and care.
The lockdown has further worsened the conditions for the women from the vulnerable sections of the community. LGBTQ+ women are especially susceptible to abuse and manhandling. Is the home that is supposed to be the stairway to heaven becoming the highway to hell for them?