Measures to Increase Reporting of Domestic Violence, a Parallel Pandemic

Measures to Increase Reporting of Domestic Violence, a Parallel Pandemic

The most essential aspect in solving any problem is to first find its extent. Without knowing the magnitude of a problem, any attempt to solve it would be a blind man’s shot.

For the same reason, it becomes important to have a robust and efficient reporting mechanism to address the growing issue of domestic violence in India. Considering the demography of India, it is essential to frame a multi-dimensional policy to be able to address varied concerns. Moreover, every special circumstance demands a unique and specialised response. The already inefficacious mechanisms of reporting of domestic violence in India need to be improved to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns. This article suggests measures that should be taken in order to address those challenges.

  1. Integrating domestic violence response with COVID-19 policy and strategy

Experts from Women Commissions should be included in the National, State and District Level policies and guidelines formation, so that the issues pertaining to women, children and other vulnerable groups are taken into account while formulating action plans at all levels. For instance, representation in the National Level Task Force, inside PM Modi’s COVID-19 task force, will help in addressing all the issues at the first stage of formulation and will eliminate knee jerk reactions.

  1. Inclusion as an essential service

Protection officers, service providers and lawyers engaged in providing first response to the victims should be included as an essential service during lockdown so that their response during lockdown is unaffected.

  1. Dedicated teams in the enforcement and judicial machinery

Judges at the lower level should be designated by High Courts and at least one police officer should be designated by the home department in each police station to address the cases of domestic violence with utmost urgency.

  1. Tracking pre-lockdown domestic violence cases

The highest probability of tracing domestic violence cases is at places where they have been committed earlier. There have also been instances where undertrials or convicted persons, when released, have further perpetrated crimes.[1] Therefore, authorities should keep a track of pending complaints by sending local volunteers to such locations. This will not only create a fear in the mind of the abuser but also assure safety in the mind of the victim.

  1. More shelter homes and safe places for victims

One of the major fears in the minds of the victims of domestic violence is the fear of being thrown out of their own home. Such fear can be enhanced by current conditions of lockdowns, where they cannot even move to their natal homes. Therefore, there is a need to utilise government facilities and private hotels to provide immediate accommodation and such places should be marked as an essential service. Location and availability of such places should be available in the public domain for easy access by victims.

  1. Increased awareness campaigns

Increased awareness of helpline numbers or email addresses or WhatsApp numbers by announcement through caller tunes, radio, newspaper, text messages and social media campaigns through influencers is crucial. Such numbers should also be displayed at local essential shops open during a lockdown. A safety plan should be prepared to act as a guidance handbook for victims during emergencies.[2] Mobile Apps like Aarogya Setu (contact-tracing service) having more than 100 million users, should be used to spread awareness for the same.

  1. National code word campaign
    Launching a national code word campaign to communicate distress signals to avail emergency support in supermarkets and pharmacies or any other place of daily visit like milk booths, for victims and children who cannot access phone or internet help.[3]
  1. Silent call facility

In order to address cases where an abuse victim is under watch by the abuser or fears being heard by the abuser, there needs to be a silent call facility which the victim can use to report complaints without having to speak a word.[4] A similar Silent Solution System is already in place in the UK.[5]

  1. Reporting with help of search engines

Search engines like Google can be roped in to increase the reporting by victims with access to the internet. Whenever any victim searches for some specific keywords like “domestic violence helpline” or “abuse by husband” or similar words, the search engine can pop up an option to the user to share their location with the local authorities in case they are in danger.

 

[1] Siddharth Lamba, “Covid-19 spread in jails lays bare systemic flaws”,  https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/covid-19-spread-in-jails-lays-bare-systemic-flaws-102458

[2] See, The Survivor’s Handbook, Women’s Aid Federation of England, 2005. Revised 2009, https://1q7dqy2unor827bqjls0c4rn-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Full-Survivors-Handbook-English-2009.pdf

[3] Ivana Kottasová and Valentina Di Donato, Women are using code words at pharmacies to escape domestic violence during lockdown, https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/02/europe/domestic-violence-coronavirus-lockdown-intl/index.html

[4] Independent Office of Police Conduct,  What to do if you need urgent police help through the 999 service, but can’t speak, https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/research-learning/Silent_solution_guide.pdf.

[5] Katie O'Malley, “What To Do If You Need To Call 999 But Can’t Talk”, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/call-police-999-emergency-silence-speak-a8859756.html

 

About the authors: Shubham Kumar Jain is a final year law student at Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi. Kanika Arora is a second-year law student at Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi.

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