GUWAHATI, April 16 - Even as social media is filled with memes on husbands �forced� to do household chores during lockdown, in reality, it�s a picture in stark contrast for women like Jonali and Korobi for whom life has been hell within the confines of their homes because of domestic violence. Fears of under-reported surge in domestic abuse cases in the State have made women�s rights groups wary about the safety of women during the ongoing lockdown.
With the lockdown in force, and women trapped with their abusers, a number of cases are being reported from various parts of the State of women finding it difficult to escape or report the physical, mental and verbal abuse. Most of such cases are being reported from rural Assam.
�Unprecedented situation, lack of income and similar factors are making the situation worse for women as the perpetrators unleash their frustration on the women and children, who are in a much more vulnerable position in the present situation,� said Anurita Pathak Hazarika, State director of the North East Network (NEN) which has been working on the issue of domestic violence for the past 25 years.
NEN has approached Jishnu Baruah, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Social Welfare, seeking certain measures to ensure that the Assam State Advisory to combat COVID-19 includes gender responsive measures by government to address safety and security of women.
The organisation has also demanded recognition of domestic violence intervention by professionals and different organisations as an essential service and allowing mobility with service passes to the organisations and activists responding to such crisis situations.
Korobi�s (name changed) case was reported from upper Assam to NEN. Soon after the lockdown was enforced, and her husband could not get his regular supply of liquor, Korobi and her child had to bear the brunt of his anger.
Though physical abuse was not new to her in her seven years of married life, it became an everyday affair as her husband was compelled to live at home 24X7.
On the other hand, another victim of domestic violence Jonali (name changed) was rescued by her brother after days of mental torture by her in-laws.
�We have received many such cases so far. The actual number is far more than what is being reported. We understand that the 181 helpline and one stop centres are functional. However, in remote villages where we work, women are not being able to access these services for various reasons,� added Anurita.
�We are remotely handling such cases due to the lockdown restrictions in force and the support provided by us is only limited given the current scenario. If such violence continues or gets aggravated, it may prove to be disastrous for women and children in the long run. Our cases so far include abused women fleeing violent homes to seek shelter, reporting to the thana, calling us on our helplines for help and so on,� she added.
The Chairperson of the National Commission of Women had recently stated that in India domestic violence complaints have been increasing by the day since the nationwide lockdown was imposed.
On behalf of the organisations addressing violence against women, NEN has also made an appeal for according mobility to organisations actively providing services like counselling, legal aid, shelter and other similar services and which are recognised by the State social welfare department as service providers.
�Shelter homes, irrespective of the scheme they run, must be authorised with special protocols to provide shelter to any aggrieved women and their dependants affected by or fleeing violence, the appeal added.
The government must also alert frontline grassroots workers like ANM, anganwadi, village defence parties, village headmen/women, etc., to immediately report such cases to service providers, police, NGOs, etc., the appeal further said.