Each and every time people ask me what feminism is all about, I simply ask them to look at everything using gender-lenses. So is the matter with this COVID-19 situation. The imposed lockdown as a means of dealing with coronavirus has accelerated many problems like joblessness, unemployment, migrant labour crisis, food insecurity, deteriorating health and lack of health facilities. People are gradually being vocal about these problems and claiming their rights. A solution to these problems but one of these many problems that has increased manifold, is yet buried under the patriarchal mindset of people. I am talking about gender based violence, or violence against women and other genders.
Since the time lockdown was imposed, the physical violence against women has been constantly going up in the graphs. Here’s some data:
All these complaints were received either online or by Whatsapp and no complaints were made by post, which means that victims having no access to internet were not able to complain. The lockdown situation has locked the victim with the perpetrators for all hours within the same walls and this has made them more vulnerable to violence. A Hindustan Times analysis stated that while some states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana have reported a decline in number of domestic violence complaint, some other states received a spike in number of calls complaining of domestic violence.
This clearly indicates that the domestic violence complaints depend on the availability of space and technology to the victim as they share the space with their perpetrators. The thing which is more dreadful than violence itself is the normalization of violence. Since few people started talking about increased physical violence on women it is being justified stating the growing number of sick people, compulsory stay at home with the perpetrators, increased anxiety, financial crisis and job uncertainty, mental breakdown, physical distancing, lack of access to outer world has accelerated physical violence on women but these ’causes’ can justify violence because violence should always be punishable.
Physical violence on women is nothing new in our society, but the lockdown situation has fueled this problem. According to the United Nation, 243 million women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide are subjected to physical and sexual violence. One in every three women at some point of her life experienced physical or sexual violence which means that violence against women is a global pandemic and entire world chooses to blindfold themselves.
This lockdown has put us in front of a mirror meant for self reflection. I was a bit optimistic that this lockdown period may enlighten the dominating, subjugating nature of patriarchy, that it would help men empathise with other genders (who have been living in a quarantine of sorts since ages) but this proved to be a fantasy. Violence is an integrated part of our society. What else would be more depressing than accepting the fact that women, children and LGBTQ+ people are not safe even among their own family members?
There should not be any effort, logical statement or intellectual statement made to justify the cases of reported or unreported violence. No doubt India and many other countries are going through two different pandemic at the same time- while one (COVID-19) is talked about widely; the other (gender based violence) is an invisible pandemic.