Simi Mehta and Anshula Mehta

There is a huge increase in gender-based violence across the globe and India as well during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. The organisations work on gender issues, policy makers and other stakeholder has been raising their concerns. To discuss this important issue and suggest solutions Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI) in association with GenDev Centre for Research and Innovation organised a Web Policy talk on 15th June 2020. 

Dr Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director, IMPRI initiated the discussion and introduced the topic by highlighting violence against women continue to be one of the most prevalent and least recognised human right violations.

Prof Balwant Singh Mehta, Fellow, IHD presented some important facts on violence against women as one in every three women in the world experience physical and/or sexual violence in her lifetime; One in every four women faced domestic violence in our country; one in every three married women between age group of 15-49 experienced physical and/or sexual violence; the most surprising part is eight out of ten such women reported that their current husbands as the main perpetrators, which is justified by half of the women in certain circumstances like neglecting the house or the children, or going out of the house without permission.

He mentioned that the reports suggest sharp rise in cases of VAW after novel corona-virus outbreak (COVID-19) and lockdown, in Germany, Canada, Spain, United Kingdom, China, France, United States of America and many other countries.

Similarly, as per National Commission for Women (NCW), there is also a significant increase in gender-based violence in India; particularly domestic violence reported cases gone upto 914 in May from 271 in January, 2020 to per cent in India as well.  This is highly underreported cases due to various reasons, and needs urgent attention from government and other stakeholders. Ms Anshula Mehta, Research Assistant, IMPRI told story of Sara of mental and physical harassment. Ms Ritika Gupta, Research Assistant, IMPRI shared a story of woman living in Kanpur and how she is suffering this pandemic with her children.

Prof Govind Kelkar, Chairperson, Gender Impact Studies Centre, IMPRI; Executive Director, GenDev Centre for Research and Innovation, she shared her views and said that women spend 312 min/day in urban and 291 min/day in rural areas in unpaid care work, while men spend only 29 min/day in urban and 32 min/day in care work. S

he mentioned two worst outcomes of the current pandemic: rise in income inequality and increase in domestic violence against women. Prof Kelkar noted that lockdown has put lot of pressure on women particularly their burden of household and care work has increased multiple time, and also mentioned women health workers ‘Asha’ who are in the cycle of delayed payments – rising expenses – debt cycle, facing lot of difficulty, both life threat and financial difficulties. 

Dr Manorama Bakshi, Senior Adviser, Tata Trusts mentioned some recent studies and highlighted that 75% increase in gender-based violence which impacted 2-3% of GDP of our country. She also mentioned the girl’s child will be most affected post-pandemic with a likely rise in cases of child labor and child marriages due to poverty. She also commented on patriarchy in our society and other social norms that hinder the gender equality. Dr Bakshi suggests that the government’s positive actions will decide the situation of gender inequality in the post-pandemic.

Ms Suhela Khan, Country Programme Coordinator – WeEmpower Asia, UN Women said that the pandemic has not only resulted rise in domestic violence but also spiked the cases of sexual and ethnic violence. Lack of privacy at home for women is also a major reason for violence against women. She pointed out that many men have lost their job and the lack of income and frustration among them is converting into violence against women at home. She also said that the work from home has increased during this pandemic, which is providing a new way of work for women, who can make the work-life balance by working from home. 

Dr Indu Prakash Singh, Facilitator, CityMakers Mission International said that inactiveness of the police force for helping women who are in trouble and asked for active police action against the perpetrators. Dr Singh talked about the patriarchal overload of and in the society needs to be abolished by empowering women folks. He also raised a question that how can men justify violence against women in our society, such a notion needs to be changed by educating the boy children in schools.

In last, Dr Arjun Kumar, Director, IMPRI gave a vote of thanks to all panelists and attendees of the discussion and he pointed out some important points regarding gender equality in society. He suggested that the families and teachers should teach their wards especially boys, about the importance of gender equality in society and removing the evil societal norms such as patriarchy and male domination and violence against women.  Without removing such social evils, we cannot think about achieving the SDG goals of gender-equal society by 2030.

YouTube Video for Gender-Based Violence in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Lockdown

Feature Image Source: Aasawari Kulkarni/Feminism In India