The rise in domestic violence against women during the nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus has been well-documented. A new research has found an even stronger link between the two, concluding that districts with the strictest curbs saw domestic violence rise much more than others did.
Saravana Ravindran and Manisha Shah of the University of California make use of the Indian government’s grading of restrictions in districts after 1 May: red zones had the most restrictions on movement and green zones the least. Crimes against women are captured through monthly district-wise complaints recorded with the National Commission for Women.
The study, published as a working paper in the US National Bureau of Economic Research, finds that red zone districts saw a 131% increase in domestic violence complaints compared with green zone districts. The figure for cyber-crime complaints was 184%. However, rape and sexual assault complaints declined more in red zones, possibly due to less public movement.
The authors note that attitudes towards domestic violence also play a role in how much crime is reported. Districts where more women justify abuse by husbands saw fewer complaints in red zones relative to green zones. But districts where more men justify abusing their wives had greater increases in such cases. The data on these attitudes towards domestic violence is taken from the National Family Health Surveys.
The lockdown period also recorded a spike in Google searches for terms such as “domestic abuse” and “domestic violence helpline”. The rise in domestic violence could be a consequence of women being at the receiving end of men’s financial stress and social isolation caused by the lockdown, the authors suggest.
Being in close proximity to the perpetrators, in this case their husbands, throughout the day may have only worsened it, the paper says