Domestic violence on the rise during lockdown

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Violence against women has always been a serious issue, but due to ‘honour’ and ‘culture’ of our society, it is seldom talked about because it “hurts the sentiments” of our people. The issue has seen a new spike in recent times due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Government of Pakistan imposed a nationwide partial lockdown in April 2020, which lasted till June, after media and rights organisations reported a massive increase in coronavirus cases. As per a report by Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO), eight out of nine indicators including domestic violence had high occurrence across the country.

“1,422 cases of domestic violence and 9,401 cases of violence against women were reported during the last six months of 2020,” the report said. The numbers were taken from January 1 to December 31, 2020, and they were based on data collected from media reports and government records. The data is based on the report, Tracking Numbers: State Violence Against Women and Children in Pakistan.

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“There is need of serious efforts by governments at all levels to ensure the implementation of laws related to the protection of women and children in country,” says SSDO Executive Director Syed Kausar Abbas said.

The report further claimed that the official number of violence incidents is missing from the government record, and that is why it has never truly reached legislation and policy development process with no solid ground for key decision-making at the government level.

The organisation has formed the report by gathering data of the registered cases and reported against the nine research indicators. These indicators include domestic violence, violence against women, child labor, child marriage, child abuse, harassment at work place, honor killing and kidnapping.

The report revealed that the highest number of domestic violence cases were reported in Punjab; the province which is considered most modern with high literacy rate. Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa followed the numbers.

According to data presented by Punjab Safe City Authority (PSCA) and Punjab Unified Communication and Response (PUCAR-15), there was tremendous rise in domestic violence during COVID-19 lockdown in the country. The statistics were based on the calls received on two emergency helplines.

“The authorities received 13,478 calls reporting domestic violence on 15 helplines from Lahore only,” the report noted, adding that 2,096 calls were received in January 2020, while 3,090 calls were received in May 2020, clearly indicating an alarming surge during the pandemic.

As per PUCAR-15 data, there was a 25 per cent rise in domestic violence reports during lockdown in Punjab. “2,581 cases were reported before lockdown (February 22 to March 22), while 3,217 cases were reported after the imposing of lockdown (March 23 and April 23) and there were 2,889 cases during the partial lockdown (April 24 to May 23),” the authority said.

According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the most common forms of domestic violence include: shouting/yelling (76%), threatening (49%), slapping (52%), pushing (47%), kicking (40%), and punching (40%). Commenting on the rise of violence during lockdown,

“Men are at home during pandemic and it would be very challenging for women to report and seek any relief. According to my experience, women used to report such cases usually at night or when men were away from home. Now, most of the private and public services are disrupted, therefore, it is really hard to know the accurate statistics and magnitude of the specific nature of these crimes,” said former Punjab Commission on Status of Women (CPCSW), Chairperson Fauzia Viqar said.

One of the reasons of this rise in domestic violence is dependence on males in Pakistani society. As per a report by the United Nations last year, women who are already marginalized economically, overburdened with house responsibility and taking care of children are “susceptible to violence while spending more time with an abusive partner during the COVID-19 induced lockdown with dismal support.”

The above-mentioned data and reports show that the issue is deep rooted and experts say there appears to be no solution for this menace in the near future because of our “family norms”, culture, and women’s economic dependence on their male counterparts. And observers say that as the country is passing through another lockdown, the chance of increasing in domestic violence cases, unfortunately, remains high.  Source: