Chennai: The Tamil Nadu Police on Thursday released data which showed that they had received a total of 5740 calls/complaints of domestic violence since the time the lockdown came into effect on March 24. According to the police, of the total 5740 complaints, 5702 grievances were settled and 38 cases were registered and the accused was arrested.
With 1915 complaints, the central zone in Tamil Nadu recorded the highest number of domestic violence cases. The central zone includes districts such as Trichy, Perambalur, Ariyalur, Karur, Pudukottai, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam. Interestingly, no cases of domestic abuse were reported from places like Trichy, Thiruvannamalai, Cuddalore and Krishnagiri. Chennai, the state's capital city, had recorded only 45 complaints as on May 22.
According to M Ravi, Additional Director General of Police (Crime against women and children), the number of domestic violence cases "definitely increased" during the lockdown period. However, he says, the numbers have now come down due to the efforts taken by the Tamil Nadu police and also because of the counselling work undertaken by the women police personnel for the disturbed families.
Activists across the country had anticipated rapid rise in the number of domestic abuse cases during the lockdown period as the lives of women and men, who are in an abusive relationship, could get worse and more complicated during situations such as these.
For this reason, Sudha Ramalingam, women's right activist and lawyer, has approached the high court seeking solutions to address the domestic violence issues faced by the poor and needy women across the state. Commenting on the data released by the police, she said, "this only shows that what we were telling all this while was true. There is an alarming rise in the number of domestic violence cases.
There could be some amount of under-reporting as many women may hesitate before giving a complaint against her husband. Culturally we have been brought up that way. Unfortunately, girls have been taught that whatever happens within the four walls of the house should not get out. However, I'm also glad that so many women have filed complaints. It shows women are getting empowered to speak up."
Speaking about the nature of complaints they have received in the last two months, ADGP Ravi says most of the cases were about physical abuse by the husbands. He claimed that during the lockdown period, even minor arguments went out of control and couples were fighting over issues such as women doing all the household chores, excessive use of mobile phones, incidents that happened in the past and depression/ anger due to alcohol withdrawal. He also added that the number of domestic violence complaints came down in May, incidentally, around the same time, the government decided to open TASMAC liquor shops in the state.
According to social worker Mohanapriya, who works with the Special Cell for Women set up by the NCW, in addition to the above-mentioned reasons, financial troubles and extramarital affairs have also led to a rise in domestic violence cases. "Due to the lockdown, many of them are facing financial troubles. This stress and anger are taken out on the women. Apart from that, during this time, many of them have discovered about the extramarital affair of their partners. This is also another reason," she said.
Explaining about their response to grievances of domestic abuse, ADGP Ravi said that when they receive a call or complaint, an official from the police station visits the concerned family and gives them required counselling and help. The husband is then asked to give it in writing that he will not repeat the same offence. Three to four days later, follow up action is taken by visiting the family or through phone calls, and if it is found that they are continuing to abuse their wives, a case is registered. In serious cases, FIR has registered straight away and the accused is arrested, said the officer.
Tamil Nadu Police also claim that they have been undertaking a slew of measures to prevent an increase in the number of domestic violence cases during the lockdown period. Listing out some of these efforts, Ravi said that an ADSP rank police officer has been nominated as the nodal officer for each district to look into domestic abuse cases in the wake of the lockdown. Further, the social welfare department has also been roped in to assist the police in their efforts.
Women Anganwadi workers visit disturbed families and give them the required assistance. According to the police, the numbers of these Anganwadi workers along with the dedicated helpline numbers such as 1091 and 181 have also been publicised widely through different mediums. In addition to this, he also asserted that they are closely watching repeat offenders and taking pro-active measures for such vulnerable homes. Regular visits are also being made to migrant worker camps and child care institutes, the ADGP said.
Social workers like Mohanapriya, who was recruited by the NCW, also provides psycho-social-legal services to the distressed woman. "When we receive complaints, we counsel the partners individually and give them all the necessary help. For example, if they need a divorce, we give them legal advice. If they are unable to afford the legal expense, we look for ways to help them. Similarly, we also help them with rehabilitation, de-addiction, property related matters etc. But most importantly, we make sure that we give the women the emotional support they require," explained Mohanapriya.