The National Commission for Women on Thursday expressed concern over the increase in cases of domestic violence as millions of Indians stay home amid a countrywide lockdown to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic, The Indian Express reported. The women’s body received 69 cases of domestic abuse in the first phase of the lockdown between March 24 and April 1, as the government took unprecedented steps to restrict the movement of citizens, commission chairperson Rekha Sharma said.

“I get one or two complaints every day. Today [Thursday], I received a complaint from Nainital where a woman is unable to travel to her home in Delhi and her husband is abusing and beating her,” Sharma said. However, the woman has refused to go to the police, saying that even if her husband is imprisoned, she will have to stay with her in-laws and “the abuse will continue,” she added. “She wants refuge in a hostel where she can live for the remaining time of the lockdown.”

“In the first week of March, the National Commission for Women received 116 complaints of crimes committed against women across the country,” Sharma said. The number of cases for ten days between March 23 to March 31 is 257, she added.

During the lockdown period, the commission has recorded 69 cases of domestic violence, 77 cases under the right to live with dignity, and another 15 cases of harassment of married women at home. Apart from this, the women’s body received two cases of dowry deaths and 13 cases of rape or attempt to rape.

Uttar Pradesh has recorded the highest number of complaints of domestic violence at 90. This is followed by Delhi, where 37 cases were recorded. The commission received 18 complaints from Bihar, 11 from Madhya Pradesh and another 18 from Maharashtra.

Before the lockdown was announced, Uttar Pradesh had reported 36 cases in the same number of days, while Delhi has recorded 16 cases. The numbers were significantly less in Bihar, where eight cases of domestic violence were reported, as well as in Madhya Pradesh at four. Maharashtra recorded five cases in total during the period, the commission said.

The woman’s body chief said the lockdown has resulted in fresh challenges for women as they are unable to reach the police even if they want to. “In many cases, they [the woman] don’t want to approach the police because if the husband is released from detention after a couple of days, the woman will still be unable to leave the house,” Sharma said. “Earlier, the women would go to their parents’ home, but they are no longer able to do so.”

Usually, a woman can register complaints with the National Commission for Women through various channels. This includes physical visits to the office in different states, postal communication, phone calls, online complaint registration, emails and through social media. However, under the lockdown, the mediums to file a complaint have been curtailed and restricted to just three forms: social media, email and online registration, Sharma said.

“We are a small statutory body, so obviously the bulk of the complaints of crimes against women don’t come to us but go to the police, we get a small portion,” she added. “What the women are telling us that they are not approaching the police because of the lockdown. The increase in violence against women, especially domestic abuse is a very worrying trend.”

The Union health ministry on Friday said there are 2,301 cases of coronavirus in India so far, and 56 of these people have died. As many as 336 cases have been reported in last 24 hours. Several states are still identifying and tracing people linked to a religious event held at the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi last month.

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