The Coronavirus spread even faster than misinformation in a hyper-globalised and interconnected world! What began as an outbreak in the Wuhan city of China soon engulfed the world’s remotest corners. No country could remain immune from its onslaught.
It came at a time when global solidarity was in tatters and no country was in a position to deal with it in an effective manner. As a result, countries responded with knee-jerk reactions. Lockdowns were professed as the immediate solution to this “act of God.”
A small virus put everyone in this world under house arrest and hijacked all aspects of life. The lockdowns also meant untold sufferings to people in the form of job losses, uncertainty regarding future, increase in mental health issues, rise in cases of violence, and the list goes on.
The world failed to realise that lockdowns gave birth to even a more dangerous pandemic that has been brewing inside our homes. The UN Secretary-General called it a “shadow pandemic.” This is because it is affecting only half of the world’s population that is being shadowed across all the cultures and regions. I would call this section of the population as our ‘invisible half’.
The lockdown kept all men indoors and confined them with their wives and children. I feel that these men, frustrated over issues like unemployment, lack of access to liquor and more, found women and children as ‘easy’ targets to vent their anger. According to the NCW, the total complaints from women rose from 116 in the first week of March (March 2- 8), to 257 in the final week of March (March 23-April 1).
Complaints of rape or attempted rape have risen sharply from two to 13, while cases of domestic violence have increased from 30 to 69 over the same comparative period. Simultaneously, there has been an almost threefold increase in police apathy towards women’s complaints with the NCW receiving 16 complaints on the issue as compared to six earlier.
Globally, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner. Emerging data shows an increase in calls to domestic violence helplines in many countries since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Was it an unavoidable situation? Did the policy-makers really have no idea about the magnitude of the problem? Did their plans even consider women to be a priority? The statistics presented above suggest otherwise.
The pandemic has affected women disproportionately in the following manner:
We cannot categorise violence into airtight boxes.
It is a means deployed to communicate power play. It is so deeply embedded in our lives that we don’t even observe it when it happens before our eyes. Sometimes we even appreciate and perpetuate it without actually being conscious of it. For example, when a police constable is rewarded for violence inflicted on the public, he might just extend the same behaviour inside his home without a sense of guilt, let alone remorse and atonement. Domestic violence has to be situated in this context.
The Coronavirus pandemic may end in a year or two but the shadow pandemic is not going to vanish anytime soon. This is because the virus of patriarchy is rooted deep in our society. From the family to the highest public institutions, this violence is all-pervasive in nature and immune to any kind of vaccine.
There is a long way to go to liberate women from the shackles of men oppression. Attacking the roots of patriarchy and promoting women’s upliftment is possible only when women will rise with a feeling of sisterhood.
At last, I would conclude by saying that being feminist is not an option but the unquestionable need of the hour.