The members of Legal Aid Clinic from Jindal Global Law School wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday seeking inclusion of work done by Protection Officers authorized under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 as "essential services".
Student members contended that the lockdown that has followed the pandemic of coronavirus has resulted in a "shadow pandemic" because of the rise in cases of domestic violence globally. The letter states-
"It is unfortunate to see how a pandemic has paved the way for abusers to dominate in their households.Ever since the national lockdown was imposed, women and children in abusive environments are appallingly vulnerable and isolated. Increasingly, the situation with regards to physical violence accompanied with depression, and anxiety in such households is worsening. There has been a growing tendency to indulge in self-harm. In lockdowns, escaping abuse, or seeking help is nearly impossible, and the lack of acknowledgement of the abusive households is in no terms helping the victims."
Moreover, data recovered from the National Commission for Women (NCW) reflects that the number of complaints across various categories of crimes against women has risen by 277%, from 202 to 762.
In March the total number of reported cases of domestic violence stood at 63, whereas there was a sharp increase in April with the total number of cases rising to 310. Similarly, there was a significant rise in the cases under the category of Right to live with dignity, from 66 to 216 within a month.
However, the student members submitted that the present data on complaints, while pointing to an increase, still might not reflect the true magnitude of the crisis as help remains inaccessible to underprivileged victims. It has to be taken under account that a large number of women do not have access to a personal device, like a mobile. The plight of such women cannot be merely dismissed at their inability to access individual devices, the letter states.
The members also alluded to the World Health Organization's firm statement that the risks of domestic violence "cannot be ignored". Also, UN Secretary Antonio Guterres urged states to make responding to domestic violence a "top priority" within national COVID-19 measures.
Thus, in order to help India combat "rampant violation of women and children in their very own households" in times of global crisis, following measures have been suggested-
1) To include the work done by protection officers as essential services along with others like-
2) Awareness drives/circulation of important information concerning remedies
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