Life within a few walls. Some living alone. Some living with family or loved ones. A situation that introverts are more used to but that which extroverts consider being a curse. This life on quarantine has proven to be very difficult for people of all sorts. Society has seen multiple changes and we are asking an effort to adapt ourselves to this changed reality. COVID-19 has given us all prominent time, to just sit and think about our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Now, we have been given some valuable time to know our families. But, COVID-19, the disease that brought the world to a halt, was not able to stop domestic violence and gender-biased assaults. We have heard that hardships and struggles bring people together despite the diversity we share, which we have realized is not universally followed. Discrimination based on caste, religion, race, gender, etc. were found to be cruel acts of violence, ages ago, by some noble people who fought for freedom and justice. It is a matter of shame and disgust to the whole of the human race, in general, especially in this present evolved world where a lot of technological advancement has supposedly changed the world for the better, that many of us still don’t understand the basic concepts of normal and harmonious living – consent, unity, humanity, empathy, etc.
Imagine seeing the news about the number of people who have been affected by COVID -19 and you keep learning new things about the disease every day adding to more fear towards it. And then you read stories of rape, mob lynching, domestic violence, abuse based on religion, etc. This is the point where we realize that our fear towards a pandemic-causing virus is far less compared to that we experience when we come across incidents and scenarios like this. Rape and sexual violence/assault cases are still being reported in many places in India, during the pandemic. This article will be focusing on those horrible cases that have surfaced in recent times of quarantine.
Tamil Nadu, the next to a first contender in the uncalled-for race towards having the highest number of COVID-19 positive cases in India, shed light on an incident where a 14-year old girl child was repeatedly raped by her father. Making meager earnings through his job as a cab driver, the father was accused of raping the child for 3 months. The child learned that she was pregnant when she complained of stomach ache and was taken to a hospital. The father has been arrested and the child is getting mental help via counseling. And if we thought this was one case, many follow up.
Haryana also saw a similar case propping up in May which sounds even terrible. The rape victim in this case is a 23-year old mentally challenged woman. The rapist: her father. Such a heinous act of sexual violence which had been going on for over a year, ended up in the daughter getting pregnant and giving birth to a still-born.
Just when we keep thinking that it cannot get worse, it does. The hopes for a better world seem bleak now after this incident where a 75-day old baby girl (a little over 2 months) was subjected to sexual assault by her 40-year old father.
Another incident was reported from Madhya Pradesh, in May, where an 18-year old girl was the victim of sexual abuse. The alleged abuser was her father who raped her as a punishment for being in a relationship with a young man in the same locality. The victim’s mother was a witness to the ordeal and is alleged to have helped her husband with the abuse. The irony is that the abuser is a retired officer if the School Education Department. She was raped 2 times- once in March when her father raped her claiming that it would make things easy after marriage; the second time, in April, when she was forcibly brought from her relatives’ house where she was hiding. Her elder sister was the one who reported the crime bringing it to an end.
Another case from Tamil Nadu states that a 13-year old girl was killed by her father as a ‘sacrifice’ in hopes of being able to earn riches and increasing the chances of getting a baby boy after following the sayings of a sorcerer.
Physical abuse is not the limit. Now we have a stronger and wider social connection that can be used to defame people on a more global platform. In May, an online group that called themselves ‘Bois Locker Room’ was reported as they were sharing obscene images of minor girls and derogatorily discussing their bodies and making plans for gang rape. After this incident went viral on social media, the Cyber police have found 26 boys put of the 50-member group, some of whom were minors themselves. This issue was brought to notice by a girl who was accidentally added into the group and she shared screenshots of the chats.
Pornography has also seen a huge rise during this lockdown. And the India Child Protection Fund set up in Jan-2020 released a report which showed that there was a 95% increase in child porn search within 2 days of lockdown. It is also stated that Indian men have shown a trend of searching for more wild content which involves more violence or harshness. This is not a new fact that has risen to the surface as the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) issued a report that showed that more than 25000 child -abuse content has been uploaded over 6 months before January.
Abusive content like this might induce an addiction toward this genre of sexual abuse and the children stuck at home are at the prime risk of falling victim to this abuse. The number of pedophiles in India is indicated to be rising. Merely searching for child pornographic content is not acceptable but that is not the main cause of worry. It is that this might lead to cases as seen above – sexual abuse, trafficking, and assaults towards innocent children who get subjected to major trauma at a very young age that will have a huge impact on their mental health and life.
COVID-19 is a disease that has demanded and claimed millions of lives all over the world. But abuses and assaults based on gender, based on race, caste, religion, etc have been around for long and it is a pitiful fact that people have started to ignore those and not acknowledge them as an issue due to fear of societal pressures that they will have to face once they open up. Abuse is being carried out in various forms. The most well-known ones are physical. But the majority of the people are subjected to shame and abuse in the means of sexist stories portrayed by movies, jokes, etc. are not considered important as the victim is not visibly abused. Therefore, people do not sympathize with him/her.
Violence against women is larger compared to the violence and abuse against men, but it does exist. People have disgraced men and women, with the number of women being more. Many cases that did not involve a very evident form of abuse is not considered. The abuse is well disguised as a wolf in a lamb’s clothing; not identifiable by the set rules that an issue has to be to be ticked off as abuse.
The solution for these cases of violence is not easy to get. What might be helpful is providing education about the impact of these abuses and how important it is will aid the people to understand the abuse and more importantly, recognize when they are subjected to scenarios of that level. Raising awareness is the key to helping people realize that they are either victims or abusers so that, if they know better, then it would help them stop playing both.
Judicial systems and police commissions impose years in prison (which varies based on the abuse in case) or a death penalty. IF we thought that the death penalty would instill fear in the hearts of other abusers, then we were wrong. There have been no improvements in smoothening the curve of rape and abuse despite witnessing brutal punishments being imposed on the culprits. We feel that if the person is punished enough, they might learn or others might learn from their pain. When gory punishments are a thing in the world of justice, they do not have the expected impact.
A very well-known situation, Nirbhaya’s gang rape case in Delhi raised a large amount of attention and it became a global issue within no time. People were furious and demanded death penalties for rapists. But we still have a lot of rape cases that are rising at an alarming level. This just goes to show that harsh punishments won’t change the mindset of people. Therefore, all those in power need to be a perfect example and take measures in identifying the forms of hidden abuse. Society breeds abusive people by filling it with hatred and disgust from a young age and these traits are passed on to you. This behavior results in a more designed society that is biased and partial towards everything or towards something that they don’t see any value in. Eliminating the culture of rape is important than eliminating the culprit. Society needs to be more compassionate and open-minded allowing victims to speak up, without dreading shameful comments and degrading words that they were a victim of abuse. Humanity is just a single race and everybody belonging to it are to be treated with respect and grace. Let’s educate our future generations with this thought as a seed for a better societal structure.