India’s Shocking Lockdown Reality: 92,000 Calls of Child Abuse in 11 Days


India’s Shocking Lockdown Reality: 92,000 Calls of Child Abuse in 11 Days

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Over the last few weeks of the lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, the country has diverted its attention to the plight of migrants who had nowhere else to go, as well as the reckless few, who didn’t care how many people they’ve infected by ignoring calls to self-quarantine. But not much thought has been spared for those of whom staying indoors just isn’t an option — even during a pandemic.

In a sobering reminder that boredom is the least of our issues during the lockdown, a recent report says the government’s childline helpline has received more than 92,000 SOS calls in the last 11 days asking for protection from abuse and violence.

The report refers to the government’s “CHILDLINE 1098” helpline and includes only cases from the first week that the lockdown was in effect — March 20-31. Still, there have been over 3 lakh calls made to the helpline, of which a staggering 30 per cent related to child abuse and violence.

In the same period, meanwhile, the National Commission of Women too raised alarm bells with their statistics. The chairperson of the committee, Rekha Sharma, has said that domestic violence cases have more than doubled since the start of the lockdown.

The total number of complaints from women, according to the report, rose from 116 in the first week of March (March 2-8), to 257 in the final week.

But according to the chairperson, as well as other independent reports, the number of cases is likely to be a lot higher, because more women are too hesitant to make the call.

A few days ago, the United Nations chief Antonio Guterres had taken note of the “horrifying” rise in domestic violence cases across the world, and had made an appeal to various governments to include the protection of women and children as key part of their initial response plans to the coronavirus.

Cases in France have risen by a third in the week after the lockdown, while Australia has seen a 75 per cent increase in searches related to support for domestic violence. The French government is now relocating domestic abuse victims into hotel rooms.

Hopefully similar measures can be taken here. Until then, the best we can do is spare a thought for those who are bound to suffer the most during this lockdown. As the UN chief put it, “Violence is not confined to the battlefield.”