Nandita Das’ short film Listen to her is nothing but an ironical take on the ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ motto during the lockdown. People are staying in their houses to stay safe from the virus, having quality time with their families, learning new recipes, dance forms, arts, and accepting challenges on social media. In short, during this time, the outside world is more unsafe while the home is a secure spot.
However, for many, home is as unsafe as the outside world. The outside world is unsafe because of the virus, while the home is unsafe because of the violence dwelling in it. Das’ short film is about this violence dwelling inside the home — domestic violence. The short film wonderfully shows a domestic violence survivor, who has no one to talk to about her pain and suffering except to call a stranger with no certainty whether they will receive the call or not. The hope of being heard, the hope of relieving the burden of pain.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated, “Domestic violence often increases in times of crisis, and is exacerbated due to restrictions and containment measures put in the place to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.”
Cases of domestic violence are at a rise in the country. It has become difficult for survivors to step outside the house to go to the police station and report the violence. Even if they or someone who wants to help them call the police station, there are more chances of their complaint being taken for granted by being asked too many questions, instead of helping the needy, as shown by Das in her short film.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has raised an urgent alert about the rise in domestic violence abuse since the countrywide lockdown. Despite the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, domestic violence is still a dark reality. It is not only limited to physical abuse, but also extends to psychological and emotional trauma, assault, humiliation and financial abuse, and further extends to depression, sexual disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
There are factors that have led to an increase in the domestic violence cases, especially during the lockdown. One if them is being the dwelling pressure and stress on people’s psyche due to financial and livelihood concerns, making them do nothing but put away their frustration by means of violence. Another well-known but least acknowledged reason is the patriarchal ideology of a woman as an object, a commodity.
Few in the society even consider women a source of money, thus, beating them up to get financial help from their family, or sometimes to sell their pieces of jewellery or savings. Women’s lives have become much worse than before, because this is a difficult time for them to even step out of their house, and even if they try to step out, there is no certainty of their livelihood.
The NCW, along with some NGOs, has provided helpline numbers to be contacted for counselling, help, and rescue for women, and have created several posts and videos on social media for awareness. But how many such women have access to social media? How many of them even have accessibility to mobile phones or other means of technology? Or the least asked question, how many of them even know that domestic violence is violence?
There are many questions that come up, but they are as hard to answer as these times. The least that can be said is maybe the number of questions are just a minute fraction of the total number of domestic violence cases occurring during the lockdown, which are left unheard to the other side of silence.
Featured image credit: Getty