Applying Victimology To Covid-19 Lockdown

Aaksha Sajnani

10 May 2020 5:43 AM GMT

  • Applying Victimology To Covid-19 Lockdown

    INTRODUCTION The COVID-19, otherwise called the deadly "coronavirus" is changing the society in ways. The World Health Organization declared it as a health crisis or pandemic in February 2020. It has additionally expressed that perhaps the greatest advance that one can take to stop the spread of this malady is "social distancing". Social distancing refers to avoiding contact with...


    The COVID-19, otherwise called the deadly "coronavirus" is changing the society in ways. The World Health Organization declared it as a health crisis or pandemic in February 2020. It has additionally expressed that perhaps the greatest advance that one can take to stop the spread of this malady is "social distancing". Social distancing refers to avoiding contact with people around you which will aid in preventing the spread of the virus. Nations across the world have abided by this measure by implementing "lockdown" to ensure the health and safety of their citizens. India has been undergoing lockdown since 24th March 2020. The lockdown has restricted the people to step out of their houses unless it is a necessity. All shops and public places except the pharmaceutical, bank, hospital, and provisional stores have been shut down. Nevertheless, it has not only protected the people from the disease but has also protected society from various other threats. India is recovering from all the environmental damage brought about by the general population throughout the years and the crime rate in India has sharply declined. Various states like Delhi, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, etc.[1] have observed a significant downfall in the crime rate during the lockdown period. It has certainly decreased the outdoor crime i.e. the crimes that take place outside a person's house or within his/her personal space such as theft, sexual harassment at workplace or murder[2]. Be that as it may, there is a fear that the crimes against women and children within the four walls of their own house may increase, such as domestic violence and child abuse. India's National Commission for Women (NCW) has recorded 587 complaints relating to the offenses against women from 23rd March to 16th April 2020.[3] Moreover, India has observed a crucial hike in white-collar crimes such as bribery and cyber-crime such as hoax calls and sextortion. Therefore, one can either be the patient of coronavirus or be the victim of lockdown. But why? Why has the overall crime rate suddenly fallen but has raised for certain specific crimes? How has the lockdown affected a specific category of victims? We can relate the answers to these questions to the four theories of victimology.


    The term "victim" refers to a person who has suffered harm or injury by the acts of another person. However, the term "victimology" was introduced by a French lawyer, Benjamin Mendelsohn, in 1947. He defined victimology as understanding the crime from the victim's perspective. The study focuses on the pattern of victimization.[4] It does not deal with the questions regarding the mindset of a criminal; instead, it deals with the questions relating to the mindset of the victims of the crime. It also explains who is likely to be a victim depending on the situation around him/her and what characteristics of a victim attract crime against him. Moreover, it creates a relationship between the victim and the accused which aids in understanding the psychological and sociological effects caused on the victims after the crime occurs against them. This is because the psychology of the victim is directly connected to the behavior of the victim. Some great scholars have categorized the victims into four types.

    The four theories of victimology:

    • Victim precipitation theory
    • Lifestyle theory
    • Deviant place theory
    • Routine activity theory



    This theory is laid down on the observation that numerous times, the victims themselves behave in a manner that may draw crime towards them. They incite or provoke the offender either actively or passively. Here, the victims become the primary cause of the offense committed on them. In the case of passive precipitation, a person unconsciously does an act that instigates an offense against them. They don't do it on purpose or with an intention to provoke someone, but it results in a feeling of revenge or hatred in the mind of the offender. For example, love interests, job status, political activity, success, and job promotion.

    For instance, a person's promotion can ignite jealousy in the mind of his co-employ or when a working woman starts earning more than her partner, it can cause envy in his mind which can draw an offense against her or let's say a man is the leader of a political party, his actions can contribute to provoking the opposite party members to commit a crime against him. In these cases, the victim doesn't have the slightest idea about the reaction of a person around him/her who can commit a crime against them. Hate crimes are additionally a genuine case of passive precipitation theory.

    On the other hand, active precipitation refers to an intentional provocation by the victim. It is the act of the victim (who was well aware of the outcome) that pulled in the crime. For instance, an individual enters into an argument with someone else who incites him to commit an offense. Secondly, it is a debated issue that sometimes in case of rape, the woman who is raped has an active contribution to it i.e. they might have a relationship with the accused or their words and actions are misread by the accused. However, it is important to note that mere flirting by women is not a "yes" for sexual intercourse.


    With the execution of lockdown across the country, there are only fewer people who step out of their house at this moment. All the spots where individuals communicate like offices, cafes, bars, pubs have shut down. The possibility of provocation of a person to commit a crime has been decreased. People are maintaining social distancing that leads to a lack of communication between them, thereby leading to no arguments to commit an offense. The constant surveillance and patrolling by police and drone ensure that relatively few individuals are outside in the city.

    The inspector of Delhi police has expressed that one of the significant reasons for violations is "provocation" but as the individuals presently don't have the environment to blow up which implies, they can't get incited. Consequently, the offenses that were caused as a result of provocation have sharply declined, "the reason for the decline is that one of the major reasons for a crime being committed is a sudden provocation which is a rare possibility at this time. "[5]

    The Crime of all categories diminished substantially from 15th March to 31st March, in comparison to the same period in 2019.



    The records of Delhi police have indicated that the number of rape cases[7] between 22nd March to 12th April has witnessed a decay of 83.4%. It remained at 23 cases in 2020 rather than 139 cases at the same time in the previous year[8]. Moreover, the data has also stated that the number of cases registered on charges of assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty has observed a deflation of 85.8% and stood at 33 cases in 2020 as compared to 233 cases in 2019 during the same period time as of the lockdown.

    The crime percentage in Kerala also witnesses a decline from the period of 25th March to 31st March in comparison to last year. [9]


    Hence, on the application of the victim precipitation theory, the absence of active and passive precipitation has contributed to diminishing the crime percentage.


    The lifestyle theory refers to the manner wherein an individual's life can draw in crime towards him/her. In other words, the lifestyle of a person can attract crime. It depends on the people that he is surrounded by and the people with whom he is friends. It is believed that a person's behavior and habits can be affected by the people he is with. For instance: A person might have a propensity of going out alone after dark or has the propensity of drinking alcohol regularly or is a drug addict. Their lifestyle choices put them at a higher risk of being attacked than the remainder of the individuals in the general public.


    During the initial lockdown, all the liquor stores had been closed down along with the precluded get-togethers within the society. Presently, even though the government has opened the liquor stores, it still isn't effortlessly available. Consequently, people of this category won't have the option to drink excessively or meet peers with the same habit, which at last declines the wrongdoings that can be caused against them. Be that as it may, this period of lockdown can be frustrating for them. Their dependence on liquor or drugs can make them vulnerable and desperate. Therefore, in this situation of lockdown, this theory can have an inverse effect. Instead of being a victim himself, he is more prone to be the offender. Unable to fulfill his needs, he may try to harm the people around him, mainly his family, his wife, and his children. This can cause a huge rise in the number of domestic violence cases and child abuse. The anger could change into aggression which might lead to alternative ways of releasing the frustration.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has also stated that with the implementation of social distancing, the cases of domestic violence shall increase in the period of lockdown. [10]According to the report of U.N. sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA)[11], every three months of the lockdown period can cause 15 million more domestic violence cases globally. This can result in 7 million unplanned pregnancies if the lockdown continues for six months. The rate of child marriages and FGM (Female genital Mutilation) cases shall also rise with the extension in the period of lockdown internationally. [12]

    Due to the pandemic, the government is more focused on providing the best health facilities to the patients of the coronavirus. Most of the hospitals and clinics are engaged in dealing with the infectants of the virus. This makes it difficult for women to approach the doctors or the hospitals without the dread of getting contaminated by the infection. Additionally, with the decrease in the supply of all the products in the market, contraceptive measures have also declined that may give rise to numerous undesirable pregnancies. However, the medical services to deal with these pregnancies are extremely limited and risky at this point. Moreover, women are also dreading to report their complaints with police since they feel that once their husband will be out of jail, he may torture them again. The National Commission of Women (NCW) has received about 250 complaints of offenses against women within 9 days of lockdown through WhatsApp and emails. It is almost the double of the number of complaints they received before the lockdown.[13] Consequently, the application of lifestyle theory can have an inverse effect.


    According to this theory, certain places are prone to crime. This means that a person has the highest possibility of being subjected to a crime if he is present in a dangerous place. The mere presence of a person in this crime-prone zone could make him a prey to victimization. Here, the victim does not participate or provoke the offender through any means, just that the victim is in a "bad area" wherein crimes are likely to happen. For instance, a person is traveling through a highway, that is prone to robberies. The risk of victimization is extremely high. South-Central Los Angeles has a high crime rate and is occupied with gangs which makes it risky for the people living there and visiting there.


    To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the government has taken up measures to prevent the accumulation of people in one place; thereby the public transports like metro, bus, and other forms of public transport has been stopped. This has assisted in reducing the crimes that were committed on such platforms. For example, The Delhi metros were extremely prone to theft of the valuables of the person traveling through it. However, since when the metro trains are shut down no theft cases being registered. Also, there are no complaints of sexual harassment of women in the Delhi metro that were registered regularly prior to the lockdown. In Mumbai, an average of about eight people is killed per day on local trains. However, since the time the local passenger trains were halted on 22nd March, a total of eight people have died in the entire April considering some cargo services are still running. [14]

    Moreover, in India, the roads are excessively busy and also prone to car accidents frequently. However, approximately 288 national highways in India have been deserted in the lockdown. Trucks, Buses, taxis, cars, auto-rickshaws, and two-wheelers have been forbidden from coming onto the roads without sufficient cause. A lot of two-tier towns have even stopped sales of petrol, diesel, and CNG to vehicles that are not necessary. Therefore, not many cars are present on the road and the possibility of road accidents has decreased. According to Mumbai RTO data, 13 people were killed in 94 road accidents in March 2020, concerning 40 deaths in 258 accidents during March last year.[15] Even at the state level, the decline in road accidents was witnessed. As per the calculations, India might see 16,500 fewer road accident-related deaths, which could be the greatest drop in a single year.[16]

    Further, if we notice, the lockdown has officially been declared at the time when it is the summer vacation at schools and colleges. Consequently, normally during this time of the year, most of the families tend to travel from one place to another and visit new places. Therefore, multiple incidents of theft, road accidents, and kidnappings are frequently registered during this time of the year. However, due to the lockdown, people are not allowed to travel unless necessary. This has reduced the possibility of victimization of people who usually travel at this point. Hence, such crimes aren't happening. This has actively contributed to the decreasing crime rate.


    Lastly, the routine theory can be classified into 3 types of victimization situations.

    • Suitable target.
    • Absences of guardian of minor/physically and mentally challenged.
    • Motivated offenders.

    Firstly, a suitable target refers to a situation wherein a person is a suitable target to be the victim of the crime. Out of all the people around him/her, he/she is the most appropriate target to be attacked by the offender. For instance, in a gathering of 50 women, a woman wearing a pure gold necklace makes her a suitable target to commit theft. Stealing from her will benefit the offender the most. Therefore, there's the highest possibility for that woman to be victimized. Secondly, the absence of a guardian can lead to victimization of children and mentally & physically challenged persons. Lastly, motivated offenders are the people who are willing to commit an offense. For instance, a family living in an urban area has left for a vacation, leaving the house empty. An individual may take advantage of this situation, hence acting as a motivated offender.


    • The Surge in Domestic Violence Cases:

    Sitting at home seems like an easy task but can be frustrating for myriad. Especially in the patriarchal society like India, it is expected that men are supposed to be out of the house to earn a living. However, at present, the lockdown might be hitting their self-esteem and ego since they aren't able to go to work. Other factors like businesses suffering from huge losses and procurement of alcohol being difficult, make the situation worse. Ultimately, this makes men frustrated and dissatisfied. Who becomes a suitable target in this case for them? Their wife? Their children? Unfortunately, yes. Presently, they are suitable targets for men acting as motivated offenders. Ever since the lockdown has been implemented, women have become a target for domestic violence. With the fear of getting infected with the virus and prevailing restrictions, it is hard for them to go out or lift their hands out for help to the police and their families.

    The chief of the National Commission of Women (NCW) stated that "Domestic violence cases have multiplied than what it was before the lockdown in the states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Punjab". [17] As per the report of Punjab police, after the implementation of lockdown, crimes against women have observed an increase of 21% that includes 700 cases of domestic violence.[18] A member of the Punjab State Women Commission has stated that "Domestic violence is a lifestyle for some women in Punjab. The wrongdoing is not only restricted to rural patriarchal societies but even in urban areas. Women are being used as tools to vent out anger. Unfortunately, not many reach out to the police".[19]

    Amrita, a consultant in an IT firm, registered a complaint of domestic violence in Pitampura against her husband, who is a businessman. She told a counselor, "I agree he is tense as his work is closed, he needs to pay the lease of his office just as the house and the salaries of his employees, however, it doesn't mean he will take out his frustration on me. Post lockdown, he has begun blowing up on petty things, he manhandles and also slapped me," [20]

    Most women are financially dependent on their husbands, making them even more vulnerable and scared to report the crimes happening against them.[21] The ChildLine India Helpline has received more than 92,000 calls asking for protection of children from abuse and violence since the lockdown.

    To support women who are becoming the victim of domestic violence, India has started more than 50 helplines across India during the ongoing lockdown. The helplines are controlled by police and NGOs working for the privileges of women. The domestic violence national helpline number is 181 while women police helpline numbers are 1291 and 1091.

    • The Surge in The White-Collar Crimes:

    The spread of COVID-19 has caused instability in the economy and businesses. Implementation of social distancing has hampered the activities of the daily course of business. As most companies were not anticipating this health crisis, several major decisions regarding finance and procurement were left untaken. Offices have shut down and employees are working from home. Companies are facing huge losses due to the disruption of supply chains and are burdened with the payments that have to be made to the suppliers, property owners, and employees. It has resulted in the relaxation of the company's policies and procedures as they are struggling to find loopholes to cover these losses. This is creating a space to let in all the malfeasance such as bribery and corruption, thereby giving rise to abundant white-collar crimes.

    In the case of Rare Metabolics Life Science & Anr. v. Matrix Labs[22], The Delhi High Court came across the huge profiteering deal taking place on the COVID-19 antibody test kits (kits that aid in determining the patient of the coronavirus) between three companies. A Chinese company, Wondfo was importing the said kits in India to a company named Rare Metabolics Life for Rs. 245 per kit (including freight charges), the said company then sold the kits to Aark pharmaceuticals at the price of Rs. 420 per kit. And at the end, the Aark pharmaceutical was providing the antibody test kit to the Indian Council of Medical Research (IMCR) at the price of Rs. 600 per kit i.e. at an inflated price of 145%. The ICMR was paying Rs. 30 crores for the kits that cost Rs.11.25 crores to be imported. The Hon'ble bench passed an order to decrease the price of each kit and sell it to ICMR at Rs. 400 per kit. The profit margin for the private investors of Rs.155 each kit is sufficient enough. The order further stated that at this crucial time for the country, safeguarding the health of the people shall be the primary concern. These kits should be available with minimum or no profit. Currently, public interest should take priority over private interests.

    However, the test kits imported by the Wondfo do not provide accurate results. Therefore, the ICMR has canceled all the orders and refused all the states to use these kits. On 27th April, after the order was released, ICMR tweeted that the accepted prices for these kits are ₹ 740-1150 for RT-PCR kits (used to detect coronavirus in a person, takes 12 to 24 hours) and ₹ 528-795 for the antibody test (used to determine whether a person's immune system has generated the antibodies to fight the virus, takes 2 hours). However. The upper limit set for the private labs to conduct the test is Rs. 4,500 per test i.e. nearly four times higher than the ICMR price. Hospitals are forcing people to take the test approximately 3 times before discharge. That itself adds up to 13,500 for 3 tests. The arguments by the private sector are that "one cannot sell the soap at a price brought from the factory", they are running a business and have to bear numerous other expenses such as employee insurance.[23] That being so, companies are using coronavirus as a shield to defend profiteering.

    Hence, companies are acting as motivated offenders presently, and the suitable target is the public.

    • The Surge in Cyber-Crimes:

    The rate of cyber-crime is multiplying every day, majorly the incidents of hoax calls, sextortion, and revenge porn. Some caged criminals are attempting to sexually exploit people using the internet and blackmailing them either for sexual pleasure; to force them into a relationship or for money.[24] Social networking and dating sites have increased the probability of such crimes. Numerous internet fraudsters are highly active during this period laying down traps for the public to acquire unauthorized access to their bank accounts. Complaints are being registered regarding hoax calls, wherein people are personating to be from bank or telecommunication companies offering consumers assistance to pay the bills online. They are also selling fake airline tickets for a future date and insurance policies covering for coronavirus treatment at an extraordinarily low cost. The Reserve Bank of India has cautioned people from such calls and not become prey to the digital crooks.

    Furthermore, "Sextortion" refers to blackmailing an individual for sexual gain. According to the report of the National Commission of Women (NCW), 412 cyber-crime complaints against women have been recorded since the period of lockdown. These complaints include indecent exposure, obscene pictures, blackmail, abuse, etc. Multitudinous cyber experts believe that this is just the tip of an iceberg.

    Contents are streaming online during the lockdown on social media that aims to specifically harass the women. As most people are working from home, they endeavor to connect through apps like Zoom. Multiple professionals and educational institutions use it to conduct meetings online. However, it is being misused by myriad. Firstly, Zoom infringes on the privacy of a person, as it lacks proper end to end encryption system, Consequently, the information shared between two or more people on zoom is at risk of being accessed by anyone. Secondly, the meetings are being unauthorizedly accessed by these caged criminals to sexually exploiting women. They post sexually explicit comments and distrust the meeting by exposing private parts which are a punishable offense under Section 294B of the Indian Penal Code,1860 and Section 66C and 67 of Information and Technology Act,2000.[25]

    On 20th April, the NCW informed the Gujarat Police regarding the hijacking of a Zoom call. An unknown person, unauthorized accessed into an online class of Nirma University on Zoom. The person exposed his private parts and started masturbating. When the students asked him his name, he replied "Faizan Bakshi". However, there is no student or faculty named Faizan Bakshi in the law department. Taking cognizance of the incident, the commissioner asked the police to immediately look into the matter and take strict legal action against it. [26]

    Yet again, these cyber-criminals are motivated offenders and the world is becoming their suitable target.


    While sitting at home during this period of lockdown, the only expression that comes to my mind is "Jaan hai toh Jahan hai". The outbreak of coronavirus has created a baffling situation in India. The normal multiplying development of cases is 11 days at present. The government of India has taken all the possible measures to flatten the curve and control the spread of the virus until a vaccine is made to put an end to it. States having the highest number of coronavirus cases are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The execution of lockdown has been a positive measure that has aided in controlling the spread of the disease. Incredibly, the lockdown has not only aided to reduce the spread of the virus but has helped India to heal its various other problems like environmental issues and the increasing crime rate. One can only commit a crime if there are people around him. As said, "where there is a society, there is a crime". The restrictions implemented during the lockdown has barred everyone to leave their house without a sufficient cause. Be that as it may, crimes against women and children, white-collar crimes, and cyber-crimes have increased. The four theories of victimology help us to comprehend why the crime rate, in general, has declined but the percentage of certain crimes has increased. Women are being the objective victims at this point, whether it is domestic violence or cyber-crime. They have become men's toys that succor them to release their frustration. But my question is, while women work just as hard as men do, why should they suffer? Furthermore, several companies still aim to profit from this pandemic instead of safeguarding the wellbeing of the nation. If that wasn't enough, cyber-crimes have further contributed to making an individual's life at stake, both mentally and physically. On that note, I suppose one can either be a patient to coronavirus or a survivor of lockdown.

    Views Are Personal Only.

    [1] Despite the Pandemic, India Sees A Drop in Mortality Under Lockdown, available at

    [2] Crime rate plunges amid lockdown but domestic abuse cases may go up, available at

    [3] India witnesses steep rise in crime against women amid lockdown, 587 complaints received: NCW, Available at

    [4] Introduction to Victimology, available at

    [5] 83% drop in rape cases in Delhi during lockdown, available at

    [6] Ibid.

    [7] Section 376, Indian Penal Code,1860

    [8] Supra 4.

    [10] Violence against women, available at

    [11] Millions more cases of violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, unintended pregnancy expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, available at

    [12]Coronavirus to Have 'Catastrophic' Impact on Women with Domestic Abuse up 20% During Lockdown, Says UN Research, available at

    [13]Press Trust of India, NCW says domestic violence cases rising since lockdown, 69 complaints received since March 24, available at

    [14] Supra 1.

    [15] Press Trust of India, Coronavirus lockdown: Mumbai reports drop in death toll due to rail, road accident during pandemic, available at

    [16] Swaraj boggonkar, Has the lockdown improved India's road accident record?

    [17] Lachmi Debi Roy, Domestic Violence Cases Across India Swell Since Coronavirus Lockdown, available at

    [18] Aayush Goel, 700 domestic violence cases registered during lockdown in Punjab, available at

    [19] Ibid.

    [20]Mail today bureau, Domestic violence spikes in lockdown, govt told to step in, available at

    [21] Press Trust of India, Coronavirus: Take suo motu note of rise in child abuse cases during lockdown, lawyers write to CJI, available at

    [22] Rare Metabolics Life Science & Anr v. Matrix Labs dated 24.04.20, O.M.P.(I)(COMM) 93/2020

    [23], Special Report: Why does the coronavirus test cost Rs 4,500 in India,

    [24] Devrupa Rakshit, Cybercrime Cases Against Women Spike Under Covid19 Lockdown, available at

    [25] Dr. Debarati Halder, Covid-19 lockdown and cyber victimization of women, available at

    [26] FIR against unknown person who hacked into Zoom online class of Nirma varsity, available at

    Next Story