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#Voices: Violence Against Women Increased In Red Zones, According To A Study. So Hitting Women Is A Way To Vent?

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The basic theory is that things get better with time. And, this in fact stands true for most cases like the recent revolutionary reform in our marks-oriented Indian education system, the intolerance and outrage regarding bashing and abusing a comedian on an online platform and so on. This is a result of evolution of mind and a change in the way of thinking of the society. But it seems like one thing is never going to change in India and that is the state of women of our country.

As the world fights the invisible demon named coronavirus, there’s a bigger, more vile, demon known to mankind; funnily enough it is the man himself. And, in this case, the “virus” would be the urge to exploit, harass and torture their female  counterparts which is even dangerous than the global pandemic we are facing. Why am I suddenly saying all this, when it happens on a regular basis anyway, is that a recent study shows that the cases of violence against women have increased in the lockdown. And, it is not just domestic violence but online sexual abuse as well. What’s surprising is that these are more prevalent in the red zones and containment areas, where lockdown restrictions are stricter.

Manisha Shah and Saravana Ravindran from the University of California at Los Angeles wrote a working paper “Unintended Consequences of Lockdowns: COVID-19 and the Shadow Pandemic” which got published on July 20 in the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). This paper shows that as domestic violence against women saw a spike of 131% and online abuse increased by 184% in red zone districts in the period of lockdown. And, this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. More than half of the such cases go unreported and it makes me shiver to think about the number of women who are fighting two demons at once. They are neither safe outside, nor inside.

Also Read: The Number Of Cases Of Domestic Violence Have Increased During Lockdown. The NCW Is Taking Initiatives To Fight It. But Is It Enough?

If you think that this is probably the result of restricted mobility, let me tell you that this isn’t true. There has a been a drop in complaints of  rape, harassment and sexual assault in the green zone areas where mobility is relatively relaxed. It has got more to do with the mindset that husbands taking out their frustration of the lockdown on their wives and children is justifiable. Let me elaborate.

A survey was done by National Family Healthy (Survey 4) in the year 2015-2016 which bifurcates the districts where husbands think hitting their wife is okay and other districts where the wives (yes, the women too) think that is fine and normal to be beaten up by their men. Shah and Ravindran used this study to observe the domestic violence pattern in May 2020 (when the zones were divided as red, green and orange) in these districts. They found out that the districts where men justify domestic violence saw a surge in red zones while the districts where women justify it saw a decrease in the red zones. So clearly, it is not the mobility but the patriarchal mentality that’s the root cause of this issue in the lockdown.

Domestic violence in particular is an issue that has been going hand in hand with the pandemic. And, it isn’t only limited to India. This started happened in other countries too as soon as the lockdown was imposed. As the UN women call it, “the shadow pandemic.” Then, with the spread of the virus in other countries left the men in full control in the four walls and get the perfect opportunity to exert their power on women. It followed suit in Europe, Italy, Spain, France, UK, the US and now finally to India where domestic violence was still a very serious issue even before the pandemic.

Talking about online abuse, the graph in the paper shows a shocking surge in complaints from March 2020 to May 2020 in red zones as compared to green and orange zones. It was earlier reported by another study that in a matter of one month after the lockdown was announced, cybercrimes increased significantly as the National Commission for Women (NCW) “received a total of 412 genuine complaints of cyber abuse from March 25 till April 25.” This included but was not limited to abuse, sextortion, morphed pictures, threats, blackmail, hacking and more.  Akancha Srivastava, the founder of the Akancha Foundation, said the reason could be “the frustration and anger that is coming to the fore as there is no other release right now. This is a form of frustration as they (cyber criminals) are caged right now.”

But let me ask this. Why only men are so damn frustrated by this lockdown that they have to go to such extremes to hurt another human being? Why is it mostly women who are at the receiving end of such crimes? Why can’t men channel their “frustration” into something more productive and leave the women out of it? I’d never understand.

This “shadow pandemic” really needs to be addressed before it is too late. It is not like we are dealing with this for the first time. As we closely watch the curve of the Covid pandemic and try flatten it, let’s not ignore the curve of violence against women depicted in this study that’s actually steeper and more chilling. Women’s safety has long been a concern and the situation only seems to get worse rather than getting better.

Also Read: #Trending : Actors And Women Rights Groups Petition For A Safer Environment For Women Online. Let’s Hope This Stops The Rape Threats And Abusive DMs


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