Atrocities on women rise in Rajasthan during Covid pandemic

domestic violence

The Covid pandemic has adversely affected every section of society in some way or the other in India. The biggest impact, in social and economic terms, however seems to have been on women, for whom the pandemic period has been a nightmare of sorts.

Crimes against women have increased significantly as per the monthly crime reports of Rajasthan Police. From July 2020 to July 2021, there has been an increase of 24 per cent in crimes against women in Rajasthan.

In 2020 till July, a total of 18455 cases of atrocities against women such as dowry murder, dowry suicide, female harassment, rape, molestation, kidnapping and other crimes were registered. At the same time, till July this year, 22,970 cases of the same offenses have been registered. This is an increase of 24 per cent.

The biggest increase has been in cases of female harassment, rape and molestation. In 2020, whereas 6872 cases of harassment were registered across Rajasthan during the entire year, 9347 cases have been registered by mid-2021 alone.

Similarly, rape cases have increased from 2972 ​​to 3717. At the same time, the cases of molestation have increased from 4894 to 5202. Cases of abduction of women have also increased by 35 percent from 2659 to 3602.

The worsening condition of women in Rajasthan becomes very clear when one sees the NFHS-4 figures. According to the survey, 25.1 % of married women in the age group of 15-49 years in Rajasthan have faced some kind of violence in their homes. At the same time, 1.4 % of women face violence while pregnant.

Reasons for increased violence

Women have paid a big price for staying at home with men during the lockdown. To know the reason for the increased crimes against women during the Covid period, we talked to Dr. Rajiv Gupta, retired professor from the Sociology Department of Rajasthan University.

COVID Response Watch LogoAccording to him, “Due to the lockdown, for the first-time people stayed in homes for a long time together. Due to this, disputes between husbands and wives also increased. Similarly, when working women also stayed at home for the first time, they faced the same problem. For example, due to lack of understanding of each other and other family problems, quarrels increase in the houses. Apart from this, thousands and lakhs of people’s jobs were also lost due to the lockdown. Men took out their frustrations on the women at home.”

Dr Rajiv further explains, that the hypocrisy of our society is at the root of the atrocities committed on women due to dowry. There was a ban on marriages during the lockdown and only a few marriages were allowed. While this saved expenditure on conduct of the marriages, the money saved was sought in the form of dowry on behalf of the boys. Those women whose marriages took place shortly before the Covid pandemic were also harassed for dowry. That is why the figures of dowry deaths and suicides have increased.

Atrocities on Dalit women also increased

The impact of Covid on Dalit women in particular has been significant. They have suffered more violence than ordinary women. Data from Rajasthan Police records show that rapes against Dalit women have increased by 28 per cent between 2020 and 2021. Till July 2020, 272 cases of rape were registered in the state, while in 2021 during the same period, 350 cases of rape of Dalit women have been registered.

Bhanwar Meghvanshi, a well-known social worker and Dalit thinker, discusses the socio-economic reasons for this phenomenon. He says, “We should not look at the effect of Covid only from the point of view of health. It has had many deep social impacts on many sections of the society. Its impact will remain on the society for many years to come. If we talk about the downtrodden class and especially women, then Covid has affected the Dalit women to a great extent. Violence against them in families has increased. Most of the people are engaged in wage labour or petty work, which were completely closed during the lockdown. Men fell into depression due to lack of work. Many got addicted to drugs and it directly affected the women of the house. Also, Dalit girls who got educated and advanced socially had to stop their studies due to lack of funding.  ”

On the increasing incidents of molestation and rape of women, Prof. Gupta says, “After the lockdown, when the government started relaxing restrictions and the markets and offices re-opened. As people also started coming out of their homes the violence hidden inside them also came out. The biggest impact of this violence was on women. Since most men consider women physically weak, they target women due to the violence within themselves. ”

The police have also been far behind in investigating the increased crimes against women. According to the July 2021 report of Rajasthan Police, 32.62 per cent of women’s atrocities i.e. 7492 cases were pending for investigation. However, in 8,194 cases, police have presented challans and 46.94 (7266) cases have been found to be fake. A total of 22,970 cases of atrocities have been registered till July this year.

Decreasing incomes forces girls to leave school

Suman Devthia, who runs the Dalit Women’s Fight organization, holds the society as well as the government responsible for the condition of Dalit women during the Covid period.

She says, “Loss of work reduced the income of families, so they stopped teenage girls from going to school. Thousands of girls in Rajasthan have been married off during the Covid period at the age of 15-16 years after leaving school. ”

Suman further says, “The government has not made any special arrangements to bring back the children, especially girls, who missed their studies during the Covid period. ”

According to a report by UNICEF, about one crore children across the country are at risk of missing out on their studies due to Covid.

Pandemic impact on women’s health

Women have not been able to access health services during the Covid period. In Rajasthan, during 2020-21, only 57% of the pregnant women got the Albendazole tablets they required for deworming. In the year 2021-22 also, this tablet could reach only 54 percent pregnant women.

Similarly, in 4.9% of pregnant women, hemoglobin levels were found to be between 7 and 11. Any value below 12 is considered as iron deficiency and below 10.5 as anemia. The NFHS-4 data also shows that 46.8 % women in the age group of 15-49 years in Rajasthan are suffering from anemia. At the same time, 46.6 % of pregnant women are anemic.

According to experts, regular vaccination of pregnant women during Covid has also been greatly affected. In the words of Chhaya Patchouli, director of Prayas Sanstha, which works in the field of health in Rajasthan “Women are not able to access reproductive services. There is increased workload at home, financial crisis and even domestic violence are being seen. Due to the closure of Anganwadis during the lockdown   services for children, pregnant women and   nutrition programs for lactating women has also almost stopped. ”

Chhaya points out that right now, at the national or state level, no comprehensive study has been done by the government or other research institutions, to understand the impact of Covid.  But according to some estimates, 40 lakh women across the country may be deprived of hospital delivery services due to Covid related obstacles.

According to Chhaya, there could be a 52 % increase in maternal deaths and 40% increase in infant mortality rate. Apart from this, due to reduced access to contraceptive means, the number of pregnancies without the consent of women will also increase. This increase and lack of access to abortion services can also increase the number of unsafe abortions”.

Madhav Sharma is a journalist based in Jaipur, Rajasthan

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