COVID-19 lockdown: Surge in domestic violence cases in Punjab

A 50% spurt in cases of domestic violence has been observed in Punjab since lockdown 

By Seema Sharma
Published: Sunday 26 April 2020

A few days ago, chairperson of Punjab State Commission for Women Manisha Gulati received a call from Rupinder Kaur (name changed), a 24-year-old resident of Boliya village in Punjab’s Amritsar district. It was a cry for help — Kaur was allegedly thrown out of the house by her husband when she was feeding her one-and-a-half-month old baby. The local police, too, rushed to the spot and helped the woman return to her home, to her child.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown is helping keep the virus at bay, but at a cost — several women are locked in with their abusers with no outlet for help. The situation is particularly grim in Punjab, where a 50 per cent spurt in cases of domestic violence has been observed since the lockdown, according to Gulati.

Kaur’s husband, an auto mechanic, is on the run. Police have registered an FIR in the matter.

Kaur’s ordeal is one among many. Gulati recalled how in one case, the woman’s husband snatched her phone when she was trying to telling her about the abuse.

“In another, a Mohali resident wrote to me saying her husband was mentally harassing her. He would say why she did not die of COVID-19,” said Gulati.

In the same boat: Women married to NRIs

Gulati added she was inundated with calls from women married to NRIs and settled in countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Dubai, Australia and Canada.

“I got call from a girl who told me that her sister, married to a man in Kenya, was physically and mentally abused. Many such women are treated like slaves at home. They don’t know their neighbours and some even cannot speak English or the local language,” she said.

Confined inside the four walls of their home with little or no help, women are gradually slipping into depression, said Gulati.

Gulati said assistance from the state government and formulation of committees of senior administrative and police officials were the need of the hour.

Cases on the rise

There has been a 21 per cent increase — to 5,695 from 4,709 cases of crime against women (CAW) between February and April 20, 2020 in Punjab, according to an official statement.

Cases of domestic violence against women increased to 3,993 from 3,287 in the same period. On the other hand, there has been a substantial decrease in cases of rape and eve-teasing during the same period, more so as people are not allowed to go outside and there is heavy police presence on the roads.

Women across the country are facing a similar predicament. National Commission for Women registered 587 complaints of domestic violence between March 23 and April 16, 2020 — an increase from 396 complaints received between February 27 and March 22.

Director General of Police, Dinkar Gupta, said the average number of calls received on helpline number DIAL 112 shot up to 133 from the previous three months’ average of 99.33. This accounted for a 34 per cent increase in domestic violence cases between March 20 and April 20 from.

The single-day increase in total CAW cases in this period was recorded at 30 per cent.

To take stock of the situation, the DGP held a video conference with all deputy superintendents of police of CAW cell and women help desk officials on April 23. 

According to the official spokesperson, the DSP (CAW) will maintain and send a daily report on all such complaints and monitor the route of action. Police will coordinate with one-stop centres, which will be manned by counsellors nominated by department of social security, women and child development.

The services of these counsellors will be utilised, wherever needed, to counsel the victims, perpetrators and provide necessary protection to children.

One-stop centres, a scheme launched by Ministry of Women and Child Development on April 1, 2015, aims to provide support to women affected by violence in private and public spaces, within the family, community and at workplace. 

According to the response mechanism devised, the CAW call is received at the helpline number and forwarded to district control room (DCC), with details of the call also given to DSP CAW and district women help desks.

The women help desk/ women response team are required to get in touch with the women in distress, provide tele-counselling and visit them if needed. The woman victim could be rescued and sent to her maternal house or shelter home, if needed.

Medical examination is done in case of physical abuse. The teams will then initiate criminal proceedings, in liaison with station house officer, if a case is made out. 

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