Pune ZP to send domestic violence perpetrators to institutional quarantine

Pune zilla parishad has formed village-level committees that will first track cases of abuse, counsel violators before taking isolation measures
Barricades put up at deserted Kasba peth area on Saturday. National Commission for Women states that women from all classes suffer abuse and reports have risen during the lockdown period.(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)
Barricades put up at deserted Kasba peth area on Saturday. National Commission for Women states that women from all classes suffer abuse and reports have risen during the lockdown period.(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Apr 19, 2020 04:42 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Pune | ByNadeem Inamdar

With reports of domestic violence on the rise during the lockdown, the rural administration in Pune has come up with its own solution - send the erring men to institutional quarantine.

The Pune zilla parishad on Saturday announced that it has formed dedicated village-level committees to first track cases of domestic violence and then counsel the members resorting to abuse. If a man continues to ill-treat the woman even after counselling, he would be put in institutional quarantine as punishment.

The Pune zilla parishad’s announcement comes in the backdrop of the National Commission for Women’s statistics that show a spike in cases of domestic violence against women during the nationwide lockdown.

“We have done this because globally there are reports of women suffering domestic violence at the hands of their husbands. The committees have been formed at the village level where professional counselling of the male members of the families are being done. The counselling sessions are related to those families where the incidents of abuse and ill treatment of women have been reported. These steps are being taken proactively in tandem with the Domestic Violence Act. The provision of putting the husband in institutional quarantine has been taken so that the women do not face a loss of residence,” said Ayush Prasad, chief executive officer, Pune zilla parishad.

While Pune rural police have not observed any surge in complaints related to domestic violence, the ease of quarantine will act as deterrent, said zilla parishad officials.

According to data shared by the National Commission for Women (NCW), 123 cases of domestic violence were received between February 27 and March 22. In the last 25 days, the commission received 239 more such complaints. The commission has also launched a WhatsApp number to report domestic violence cases.

The village-level committees in Pune district have been designated as local vigilance committees where women staffers attached to the state-run child care centres, women members of the local gram panchayats and self -help group (SHG) will be counselling those individuals who are found mistreating the women.

The administration has reasoned that the step is undertaken as a preventive measure to curb the spread of outbreak of the epidemic. The administration will investigate each type of complaint made by victim before the administration and action will be taken.

“The person will be counselled in the first place and if he does not show any improvement in behaviour and continues to harass the woman, he will be admitted in institutional quarantine,” said Prasad. The ZP will take assistance of the police in carrying out the initiative and the entire process will be in writing.

Anil Deshmukh lauds initiative

Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh lauded the ZP initiative. Deshmukh said the committees were formed in “line with the home department’s instructions to deal with cases of domestic violence”.“Other zilla parishads in the state should follow the suit to ensure women are not harassed,” he tweeted

Locked down with their abusers, women turn to helplines for solace

Renu Deshpande Dhole

Stay home, stay safe – the universal advisory in the times of Covid-19 pandemic, might sound full of irony for victims of domestic violence and women stuck in toxic, abusive relationships, said city psychologists . Helplines and women’s organisations have come forward to urge women to seek help if they find themselves at the receiving end of violence during this difficult time.

“In crisis times such as this, ‘active violence’ is erupting due to feeling of being cooped up, especially in families that are already dysfunctional. The level of stress due to the many uncertainties surrounding the future is high and a loss of control in the outside world might lead to more aggressive, controlling behaviour by the perpetrator at home,” explained feminist psychologist Sadhana Natu.

She, and 26 other psychologists in Pune, have circulated their mobile numbers widely with the intention of helping anyone in need of reaching out for emotional/psychological support during the lockdown.

“The limitation is that only those who are using a phone, have access to WhatsApp, Facebook (which we used for publicity) can use this service. That leaves out the lower middle classes and the poor with no access,” Natu said.

Grassroots organisations and activists working in the field at the forefront of fighting Covid-19 could help popularise these initiatives by experts, she felt.

Sadhana Khati, chairperson, local complains committee, Pune district, agreed that the limited access to a mobile phone and the lack of private space to call for help might exacerbate the feeling of being trapped for victims of domestic violence. “While women from all classes suffer violence and abuse, there’s often silence around it in middle class/upper class homes. Then again, violence can come in many shades – economic, emotional, sexual, physical. We will have to wait to gauge the full impact of this lockdown on domestic abuse victims,” she said.

If one can’t access a helpline, there are some safety mechanisms that women in toxic relationships, problematic marriages and violence-ridden families can employ to avoid suffering as the lockdown continues, says relationship therapist and psychologist Seema Gaikwad.

“In these times, when one might be cut off from trusted people, it is important to have some sort of support system in place. It may help to call friends, video call loved ones, asking near and dear ones to check on you regularly or having online sessions with your counsellor or therapist as a part of your routine. For your own safety, try to avoid triggers of conflict. Do not provoke, do not react when possible. Remember that this lockdown is not unending. Use the introspection done in this period to work out a plan to address your issues, after this crisis is over,” she advised.

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