Violence acceleration during Pandemics

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Home is supposed to be the safest and coziest sphere; with family members, we celebrate, we share and we take care of each other. However, the scenario cannot be generalized in any sense - It is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. Moreover, 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017 globally, out of which more than half (58 percent) were killed by intimate partners or family members[1].

The COVID-19 pandemic has locked down a third of the global population. With the increase in the number of infections, this situation seems to be not ending very soon. This is the time where most of the families are in one way or another compelled to be together. More precisely, the intimate partners are sharing all the hours inside one space.  The past experiences and researches have revealed that gender-based violence escalates during the time of wars, natural disasters and epidemics. According to the recent reports, during the COVID-19 crisis in China, the case of domestic violence reported tripled in February compared to the same period last year. Similarly, in Europe a piece of recent news exposed domestic violence is amplifying in a similar manner.  According to the reports, the cases increased by 20% in Spain and Britain, and by 30% in France[2]. These numbers are merely the reported cases. It is staggering! It can be prophesied that there could still be a large number of unreported cases of violence against women during these periods. However, there might be several reasons for not being reported, out of which the most important one might be because of the unfavorable time and medium to report as they are together with the perpetrator (due to lockdown).

Looking at the trend of domestic violence in Nepal, it is highly cumulative. Nepal Police data on Domestic violence for the year 2075/76 B.S. was 14774 which was 3145 more in number[3] compared to the previous fiscal year. National Women Commission (NWC) fact sheet of violence against women from 21st Nov 2017 - 31st Dec 2019 discloses 61% of incidents [4]occurred at home of which 66% of perpetrators were intimate partners or spouses.

As the cases of COVID-19 started to increase, the lockdown was imposed on22nd March 2020 in Nepal. Observing the current trend of increase in violence against women worldwide during the lockdown, women's rights activists and right based organizations have been raising their voices and seeking the attention of the state to become even more sensitive in the issues of violence against women. It has been urged to the Government to develop an easy access mechanism for reporting the cases.

Our team has been supporting the women who had gone through such ordeals. The current events show that the number of women going through the oppression has increased dramatically in recent days, for example; just a few days ago a woman called to our help center informing she has been brutally beaten by her husband. To be beaten was a regular schedule for her, but this time it was to the extreme that her husband nearly cut her into pieces with a Khukuri knife. Somehow, she managed to run away to her parents’ home leaving her 7 months daughter. Nevertheless, her husband has not stopped threatening to hurt her or for a dire consequence if she wouldn’t return voluntarily. This has led to a precarious environment where the life of her child, and parents are also at the edge. In response, the ward representative informed the police immediately and briefed the scenario. The only solution suggested was to apply for a first information report (FIR). The single most problem is, neither could she go to the police physically due to restriction in movement, nor she would be psychologically able to afford it.  Even though the case is extremely sensitive that had to be responded in no time by the concerned bodies, due to lack of the proper functioning system, she had to wait her fate in the hands of her perpetrator.   There is no other unpleasant scenario in the world than a seven month old child be separated from her mother. This is only an example - a tip of the iceberg; cases like this are hardly reported because of normative behavior, and the aforementioned constraints.

As per the provision of Domestic violence crime and punishment act 2066, anyone can report the case either written or verbally.  The harsh reality is, there are rare occasions where the complaints are accepted to be lodged verbally by the security personnel. Similarly, even if the authorities are cultured to collect the written form, there is no consideration of the sensitiveness of the case and existing scenario – they forget that not every case is the same. Furthermore, the most significant part is, there is no reliable data record compilation system of the cases being reported.

During the time of the pandemic, all state organs are intensively engaged on the prevention and preparatory measures of COVID-19 infection. However, there should not be any excuse for the safety of the most vulnerable group; women, children and elderly. If not, due to passiveness of the system in the sector of protection of women and children, at this period of crisis, it could be an opportunity for the culprits to develop self-confidence for acting violently. Consequently, it could be easily predicted that the cases will be increasing in accordance with the world scenario, and might also surpass the national trend of cases reported previously. In a similar manner, there is an urgent need of creating a relaxed arrangement where the complaints could be easily filed, and the records would be maintained properly for future references.

Ultimately, we both men, women, and any other gender being together physically, mentally and socially healthy can only provide strength to combat against the virus and its consequences.


[4] file:///C:/Users/WOREC/AppData/Local/Packages/Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe/TempState/Downloads/5e369f0f1a142_NWC_factsheet_Dec_2019-2.pdf


Position: Human Right Activist

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