It seems like any normal day for 23-year-old Bembem (name changed) to begin the day getting thrashed by her unemployed and alcoholic husband. But she would run away to her distant maternal home when it was too much. However, it is different during the COVID-19 induced lockdown. She has no place to run as there is no public transport.
“Whenever my husband beat me, I would go to my maternal home. Due to lockdown, it is not possible now”, said Bembem. Before the lockdown began, she used to work and brought home some money. She has no place to earn a living as the place where she used to work before closed down due to the lockdown. She has now become an easy target of daily physical assault by her husband.
Bembem is just one of the many victims of domestic violence in Manipur. There has been a sharp rise in the cases of gender-based domestic violence in the state after the enforcement of the COVID-19 related lockdown.
To find out more, Imphal Free Press contacted the chairperson of Manipur State Women Commission Meinam Binota. She confirmed that the cases of domestic violence both in rural and urban areas in Manipur have increased since the imposition of the lockdown.
As the state is under lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus, the efforts to protect lives have also put the vulnerable group at risk. Women and children who live with domestic violence have no way to escape from their abusers during the lockdown. Most of the domestic violence cases in the state are physical assaults committed by drunken husbands and fathers, said Binota.
General crimes against women have also seen a spike in recent times. According to a report compiled from newspaper reports since the lockdown began, there were 91 cases of crimes against women. These include 16 rape cases, five murder cases, seven suicide cases, three suspicious death cases, six life attempts, 21 assault cases, nine missing cases, six trafficking cases, eight cyber-crime related cases, one case of molestation, three attempt to murder, two child marriage cases, one attempt to sell baby girl, four racial attacks and one death on delivery case.
Among the recent assault cases, there is a shocking and inhuman case of a 26-year-old woman who was beaten black and blue by her husband for denying sexual favour to her father-in-law and a 34-year old pregnant woman was kicked by her husband in the stomach which killed the unborn child.
Chairperson of Manipur State Women Commission, Mainam Binota said many women have been facing domestic violence–verbal and physical abuses even during normal times but the lockdown has aggravated the situation. In previous years, Manipur recorded around 50-60 cases of domestic violence at the commission. But this year, within a short span of time, under this lockdown, there has been an increase in domestic violence in the state. The chairperson said the main cause of domestic violence in the state is alcoholism.
Sobita Mangsatabam, secretary of Women Action for Development said more than 20 cases of domestic violence were reported via mobile as well as written complaints. She said that there may be many cases unreported as many were unaware about their rights. The stress of confinement, financial constraints and the lack of access to alcohol were exacerbating factors, said Sobita.