Around the world, as countries have gone into lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus, the mass efforts to save lives have put one vulnerable group more at risk. Women and children who live with domestic violence have no escape from their abusers during quarantine, and from China to Italy, Brazil to Germany, and now to India, activists, and survivors say they are already seeing an alarming rise in abuse.
Therefore, the Delhi High Court agreed to hear a writ petition [All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice. V. Union of India & Ors. W.P.(C) 2973/2020] seeking immediate implementation of measures for safeguarding the victims of domestic violence and child abuse amidst the coronavirus lockdown in the country.
The petition moved by an NGO, All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice (AICHLS), highlighted the increase in domestic violence incidents since the lockdown last month, now extended till May 3, and sought the court's urgent intervention in the interest of women and children.
Advocates Mithu Jain, Arjun Syal, and Vidisha Kumar, representing the NGO, prayed in the petition for enforcement of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act for protection of the victims of domestic abuse/violence.
The petition sought certain immediate and effective measures to be adopted to help victims of domestic violence and child abuse during the lockdown. It said incidents of domestic violence and child abuse have gripped not only India but countries such as Australia, the UK, and the USA, and the reports suggest that there is a horrific surge in such cases since the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown.
The petition claimed that the helpline numbers across the country received about 92,000 calls based on domestic abuse and violence in the first 11 days of the lockdown alone and sought that nodal officers be appointed to attend to such distress calls. It further prayed for giving wide publicity to the helpline and WhatsApp numbers as well as the contact details of the concerned NGOs and government representatives who would be able to assist the victims immediately and round the clock.
The NGO sought the intervention of the court saying in view of this peculiar situation, access to other ordinary channels such as courts, police, protection officers, friends, and relatives is remote.
“The lockdown also is a breeding ground for child abuse as well since they are deprived of the networks that help them cope up with, like their friends, teachers, coaches, relatives who usually provide an escape from their abusive environment,” it said.
Therefore, the Delhi High Court on 18th April 2020 issued an Order to Centre and Delhi Government with regard to the aforesaid petition which had sought directions from the court with regards to a public health and social crisis due to pandemic outbreak of COVD-19 i.e. Domestic Violence and Child Abuse.
A Bench of Justice J.R. Midha and Justice Jyoti Singh has issued notice to National Commission for Women (NCW), Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) along with Center and State Government and list the matter for further hearing on 24th April 2020.
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Gandhi & Associates