BHOPAL: Unlike the general perception, cases of domestic violence in the state have witnessed a sharp dip in the month of April, when a lockdown was imposed in the state to arrest the spread of the coronavirus.†††
Cases of domestic violence - cruelty by husband or in-laws - in the state dropped from 728 in March 2021 to 428 in April. The number of deaths related to domestic violence also fell from 46 to 34 in the same period.
It is generally believed that periods of mental or economic distress increase conflict, quarrels and violence in homes. And there is little doubt that the second wave of the pandemic and the resultant lockdown caused ample mental and economic distress to the people.
Businesses were closed and the daily wagers were deprived of their income. Also, with families confined to their homes due to the severe restrictions on movement, arguments and conflicts increased.
But official figures say otherwise. A total of 2,589 cases of domestic violence were registered by the police in the first four months (January-April) of this year. Domestic violence led to 142 deaths in the same period.
The month-wise number of cases was January (751), February (682), March (728) and April (528). The Bhopal Range accounted for the highest number of cases (386) (See accompanying table for more details).
Ajeeta Nayar in-charge of the Bhopal Mahila Thana says that she cannot comment on the fall or rise in the number of cases. "In all cases of complaints of domestic disputes and violence, we first arrange counselling of the couple. If the dispute remains unresolved or if the woman insists that she wants to register a case, we file an FIR. The arrest of the accused and the filing of charge-sheet against them in the court follows," she says.
†However, she is clear that women come to the police only when their patience gives way. "Small things keep on happening and one day the woman decides that she cannot take any more," she says.
"The problem with most of the women is that they have nowhere to go to. They have no place in their husband's home, in their in-laws' home and even in their parental home," she says.
Lockdown was a major violation of human rights of the women
Social activists say that the drop in the number of cases during the lockdown did not mean that the incidence of domestic violence had declined. Lockdown, they say, was a major violation of human rights of the women, who were forced to stay indoors in close proximity with the perpetrators of violence against them. With public transport shut, their mobility and consequently their accessibility to agencies which could help them was severely restricted. Even the police were occupied with implementing the lockdown and had no time to listen to the woes of the women, they say.