A medical mask tied around her ears and a surgical cap covering her head, she walked along the hospital corridors carrying medical supplies. After all, her new job demanded her to be on her toes all the time. Lata*, a mother of three school-going children, started working at this hospital in the National Capital Region right after the Nationwide lockdown was lifted.
She needed a job badly to support her family. Her husband would roam around the streets drunk and didn’t contribute to the family’s income.
Lata starts her day at 4 am. She cooks for the household, cleans up and makes her lunchbox to carry to her workplace. She leaves her house at 6 am, walking for more than 30 minutes till the shared auto stand. The travel takes 15-20 minutes and she walks again till the hospital. Her duty last 12 hours a day.
Getting this job wasn’t easy for her. It was not just for a steady income, but also, to escape her husband’s beatings at home. She ensures her children attend school and wants them to take up well-paying jobs in the future, earning them a dignified living. “My husband does not earn. He comes home drunk. I can’t just sit around and take his beatings. I want to earn and take care of my children. I want to give them a better life. I want to have a better life,” says Lata. She adds, “I am not going to wait for my husband to change. I’ll look after myself and my children.”
At her workplace, Lata spreads joy amongst her colleagues. She is hardworking and is faithful for each hour spent at the hospital. Her supervisors have been happy with her, increasing her monthly salary from Rs 9000 to Rs 12,000.
For years we’ve been hearing of stories of everyday violence that women face across the country and the world. We also know of women who have risen above the crises they face.
Statistics do not speak power as much as personal stories of women who have faced violence. But, to bring in the seriousness of the situation, did you know that domestic violence was the top crime Indian women faced in 2019? Around 30% of the crimes against women registered were those of domestic violence.
It is a hidden crime. You’d only know about it when you see a woman’s face or hands injured, or when you hear the screams from your neighbour’s house, or when your cousin hushedly tells you about her husband’s violence. And how many of us are fearless enough to intervene?
To be honest, I’d certainly think twice before coming to the rescue of someone I know. And there are women who defend their violent husbands, despite bearing the brunt, because it is ingrained in a woman that it must be her fault if the man beats her up. According to a report by National Public Radio, an alarming number of women around the world think spousal abuse is sometimes okay.
With the increasing discussions and awareness against domestic violence, you might think there’s a ray of hope. There might be! But the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have only worsened the situation. According to the official data of the National Commission for Women (NCW), domestic violence complaints have increased by 2.5 times since the nationwide lockdown began in India.
The news report reads on, ‘As per the data provided by an NGO named Swayam (based in Kolkata), there were 22 complaints on average per month before the lockdown, which increased to 57 complaints on average per month through emails and helplines.’
Just imagine being locked up in a house with your abuser! Imagine the mental trauma and helplessness! Also, imagine the guts the woman might have gathered to register a complaint against the abuser.
And this courage is what I applaud…the courage to take little steps out of an abusive relationship, the courage to be financially and emotionally independent, the courage to refuse to bow down to the narcissism the abuser portrays.
Today, Lata continues to work at the hospital amidst the pandemic, being one of the countless frontline workers in this battle against COVID-19. She brings a change in the lives of many who visit the hospital, knowing her own life is at risk because of the virus.
Here’s hoping the countless women who face violence are able to wriggle out of the abusive relationship. Here’s hoping the silent victims are able to break free and live a happy life. Here’s hoping you and I can help them make a change in their lives.
*Name changed to protect identity.