Domestic violence—an epidemic amidst the pandemic

Domestic violence

Anushka Nepal

  • Read Time 5 min.

Kathmandu: The safest place to be during the pandemic is supposed to be one’s own home with the family. But for some people, it’s not entirely true. Amid the raging pandemic, many people have been subjected to emotional and physical violence within the confines of their homes, making them unsafe both inside and outside their houses, scaring them mentally and physically for life.

Domestic violence has been spreading like an epidemic amidst the pandemic in Nepal, researches show. The number of domestic violence cases has seen a sudden rise during the lockdown, according to Bimala Khadka, case manager at Nepal Women Commission, a governmental organisation that works to uplift the lives of women in Nepal. 

Including that, data published by Nepal Monitor shows that the number of incidents related to Sexual assault and domestic violence have increased during this pandemic. 

When it comes to domestic violence, most of the perpetrators tend to be close family members. “As the country went into lockdown, victims were left alone at home with the abusers,” said Khadka, “This has led to a worrying rise in the number of domestic violence.”

What do the numbers say? 

Organisations working towards minimizing violence and providing necessary help–Nepal Women Commission, along with Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC),  Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN), Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) Nepal, and Legal Aid and Consultancy Center (LACC)– monitored cases of domestic violence during the first lockdown.

According to the Lockdown Report published by NWC, which has recorded cases from March 24, 2020, to July 21, 2020, the total number of calls received in the NWC helpline about domestic violence was 1267. 

The data shows that the number of calls received kept on increasing as the lockdown extended.

The graph below shows the number of calls related to violence against women among these calls. 

In its lockdown report, NWC has also categorized domestic violence cases according to their nature.

The lockdown report also clearly shows that many perpetrators are usually close to the victim. Of the total 100 cases, 71 faced abuse at the hand of their partners or spouses.

 According to the press release presented by WOREC, with the help of two hotlines operated by WOREC, 23 psychologists, Women Human Rights Defenders, and Women’s Community Organizations have documented the various incidents of violence from 29th April 2021 to 29th May 2021. 

The data shows that among 200 women, 45 percent of them are the victims of domestic violence. 

“These are the cases that come out,” Khadka said, adding that there are many more cases that are not reported due to familial and societal pressures. “The number of domestic violence cases that never get reported is way more than that of the cases that are reported,” she said.

Reasons behind the increasing violence

The pandemic did not just bring a fear of the virus among the people. It also brought unemployment and financial pressure among the families, leading to frustrations and irritations.

Generally, people have a tendency to harm those weaker than themselves, leading family members to lash out upon each other, especially upon women and children, says Sulochana Khanal, program officer at WOREC. 

Pitambar Koirala, head of the program department at TPO Nepal, adds that since many people were cooped up in the house with the same people every day with nothing much to do, it led to a rise in frustrations and annoyance, and hence a rise in cases of domestic violence.

What did the concerned authorities do?

As domestic violence started increasing during the lockdown, governmental and non-governmental agencies began working together to tackle the issue.

Khadka mentioned that NWC and other organisations like WOREC, LACC, TPO Nepal, and CWIN Nepal provided various help. “Our helpline, 1145, was available to people, and we were at their rescue with basic needs and legal support,” Khadka said. 

The organisations provided medical help to the injured and shelters to the survivors who had nowhere to go. They also offered psycho-social counselling and therapy to survivors.

Khanal, the program officer at WOREC, informed that her organization rescued the survivors and set up a safe shelter for them to stay in with COVID protocol. The organization also built Safe Quarantine zones for women as the number of cases started growing in the quarantine zone.

Koirala from TPO Nepal added that they provided all the psychological help necessary through the online platform. According to Koirala, TPO Nepal also provided therapy and counselling through phone, video calls, social media, and shelter to those who needed it.

How bad is the effect? 

The worst effect of these cases was psychological, said Koirala, adding that the number of suicide attempts and deaths increased rapidly among the survivors.

Children were supposed to stay home during the lockdown, which made them the audience to the torture faced by their parents, especially mothers, making them prone to mental health problems like depression and anxiety. This also massively affected the education of those children, said Koirala from TPO Nepal.

The pandemic did not just bring a fear of the virus among the people. It also brought unemployment and financial pressure among the families, leading to frustrations and irritations.

These incidents also exert a long-term effect on the society as a whole.

“A child’s growth is shaped up by the surrounding he or she grows up in,” said Khanal from WOREC, “If a child grows up in a place where all he sees is his mother being tortured by his father, he tends to internalize domestic violence as a norm, not an exception. The cycle keeps on repeating.”

This explains why domestic violence cases see no decline in Nepal, Khanal said.

“Domestic violence is a direct repercussion of the patriarchal structure of our society,” she said. 

Plans and preparations for the current lockdown

Authorities are doing their best to curb the violence and not let the worrying situations of the previous lockdowns repeat again, they say.

NWC has planned on working on immediate rescue to the survivors, along with better monitoring and establishing child-friendly quarantine places, says Khadka. 

WOREC will also be setting up safe quarantine spaces for women and children. The further preparations are still being discussed, says Khanal. 

Along with this physical help, Koirala from TPO Nepal informed that the organization would be providing the necessary psychological and emotional support needed to the survivors.

Helplines to contact if you or someone you know have faced domestic abuse and want to report

  • Government Hotline: 1234
  • Armed Police Force: 1114
  • Nepal Police (for rescue): 1113
  • Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MOWCSC): 1618014200082
  • National Women Commission (NWC): 1145
  • Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) Nepal: 16600102005
  • Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC): 16600178910
  • Shakti Samuha: 16600111117