Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Day 10: சுற்றத்தில் நோய், இல்லத்தில் வன்முறை: A Discussion on Domestic Violence during the Pandemic

We invited service providers from all the districts of Tamil Nadu to an afternoon of sharing and discussion around the increased frequency of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence during the pandemic lockdown. 

Thirty-three districts were represented by 24 NGOs, some of whom worked primarily in the area of domestic violence support services and others whose work brought them into contact with survivors whom they went on to help. Prior to the meeting, NGOs filled out a short survey. We will compile those findings and notes from this discussion into a report before Pongal 2021. 

Some common experiences and themes that were mentioned in the presentations:

  • All types of violence became more common during the lockdown. Apart from domestic violence, participants mentioned:
    • Child Marriage
    • Forced Marriage
    • Child Sexual Abuse, often by old people.
  • There were also caste-related consequences: One NGO representative narrated the story of a young man, about to marry out of his caste before COVID, who married according to his family's wishes in order to have their support during the pandemic. 
  • Economic distress led to women being unable to repay microcredit loans. This led to arguments and violence.
  • Men being at home all day increased the workload at home and also led to friction over money and violence.
  • Social workers could not travel to check on clients who were known to experience domestic violence, and victims could not travel to seek help. In the constant presence of abusers, phone calls were also not an option.
  • Victims were unable to reach shelter homes because COVID tests were required. One NGO mentioned that women who came to the shelter during COVID were unusually unwilling to go back home.
  • Alcohol consumption by men sitting idle was related to increased domestic violence. One NGO representative said, "We could write an episode on before and after TASMAC. After the opening of TASMAC, the men started hitting their wives to ask for money to buy liquor."

This summary barely captures the richness of the discussions. There was great interest in follow-up activity and suggestions included:
  • Consultations over a longer duration on this topic.
  • Camps to help women register domestic violence cases.
  • A collective voice to raise these issues and also to access data.
  • Capacity-building for NGOs who may not specialise in, but need information about gender-based violence and laws.
We were overwhelmed by the response and enthusiastic engagement by our partners but dismayed that some of them had to struggle with connectivity issues and could not make their presentations. In this information age, we were reminded that the digital divide has not been bridged at all. 

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