Domestic Violence - The Shadow Pandemic

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Dear Mrs. Smriti Zubin Irani,

Happy International Women’s Day – March 8.

But, we strongly feel that everyday must be Women's Day considering the stellar role women play in our society – as grandmothers, mothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, wives, professionals, leaders and so on.

Through this petition, we would like to draw your and the society’s attention to an age-old malaise: Domestic Violence.

Isn’t it a double tragedy that Covid-19-induced lockdown has made this offence a ‘shadow pandemic’?

Last year, in India, the National Commission for Women (NCW) saw a multi-fold rise in the distress calls as compared to the previous year. In 2020, NCW received 5,297 cases. NCW’s data shows a surge in cases along with lockdown coming into effect in India and it continued to rise by the day.

The violence continues unabated and a substantial number of cases are going unreported either to “safeguard family’s reputation” or being ashamed to identify oneself as a victim or for want of help or multiple other reasons.

Please check: Domestic Violence Is ‘Shadow Pandemic’

For the victims, NCW’s WhatsApp number – 7217735372 – released last year, to report cases of domestic violence, is a step towards accessing for some relief.

We believe partnerships have a significant role to play in enabling an equal, inclusive and safe environment for the women in our society. We are filing this petition in association with Viviana Mall’s #MeraFarzHai 2.0 campaign, a movement seeking to create awareness among victims and the people to come ahead and report domestic violence experienced by the women. We need many such initiatives so that lack of awareness and stigma around speaking out about domestic abuse does not stop us as a society from putting in place help and support that survivors so desperately need.

From the Government side, there is, however, a lot more that is required to alleviate victim’s trauma, counsel the couples and in-laws and also ensure that those who report such cases are not subject to repeated questioning or harassment.

We urge the Ministry of Women & Child Development to consider the following:

1.     Have a Good Samaritan Law to protect complainants/ whistle blowers

In case of accidents, recently, the Union Government had introduced rules to protect Good Samaritans wherein the person reporting the incident shall not be liable for any civil and criminal liability or compelled to reveal own identity and personal details. The protection includes prevention of harassment and inconvenience for the person reporting the incident and disciplinary action against public officials who coerce or intimidate a Good Samaritan to reveal name and personal details.

A law on the similar lines is much needed for individuals bringing cases of domestic violence to the notice of public authorities, as well.

2.     Infrastructure for domestic abuse victims to take shelter in case of an emergency

Whenever the women are subject to physical abuse, they often find themselves helpless for want of an alternate accommodation leading to continuous spells of violence from either the husband or in certain incidents from the in-laws too.

Having a dedicated shelter home for such victims to take their child along is much required. This would ensure the victim is immediately out of the clutches of the perpetrator and for better sense to prevail.

3. Counselling for couples and family members

The domestic acts of violence invariably require counselling for the family to bridge the gap and differences between spouses and in-laws. In India, there often is resistance towards seeking external guidance or from a neutral voice unless it is a common friends or relatives. These common friends or relatives aren’t experts to handle such a sensitive issue, hence, there is a need to establish and promote counselling centres for a healthy family life.

We at NatConnect Foundation join together with Viviana Mall in working towards creating and spreading awareness about domestic violence as we believe it is a serious public concern and it deserves to be discussed. With advocacy, community support, services like safe shelter and prevention programs we can make a huge difference.

Together, we can. #AwaazUthao #MeraFarzHai

Yours sincerely,

B N Kumar

Director – NatConnect Foundation (Environment Everything)