Guidelines For Victims of Domestic Violence in J&K amid Lockdown

Jammu & Kashmir High Court takes Suo Moto Cognizance and issued guidelines for victims involved in domestic violence cases. Conversely, the High Court ordered the authorities to submit an action taken report.

Suo Moto Cognizance

Chief Justice Gita Mittal through video conferencing led a division bench with Justice Rajnesh Oswal. She addressed the victims of domestic violence trapped at homes. For this purpose, she acknowledged that the victims live with their abusers and have no access to friends, family, public spaces, legal institutions, etc.

The imposition of the unprecedented COVID-19 lockdown lends to the creation of a situation of confinement of families in closed spaces. Besides, the norm of ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ is enforced due to the prevalence of social distancing.

As a matter of fact, the Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres took note of the difficulties of women. For that reason, he called for all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19. According to Guterres, nearly one in five women worldwide has experienced violence in the past year. For fear that they are with their abusers, struggling to reach out to services and are suffering from cuts and restrictions.

Guidelines

To grant ‘immediate assistance’, seven guidelines were proposed:

  1. Creation of dedicated funding to address issues of violence against women and girls. This was done as a part of the COVID-19 response by the UTs of the J&K and Ladakh;
  2. Increased availability of call-in services to facilitate discreet reporting of abuse;
  3. Increased tele/online legal and counselling service for women and girls;
  4. Designated informal safe spaces for women say grocery stores and pharmacies. Places where they can report domestic violence/abuse without alerting the perpetrators.
  5. Immediate designated safe spaces (for instance empty hotels/education institutions etc) as shelters for women who are compelled to leave their domestic situation.
  6. Giving urgent publicity to information regarding all of the above measures. As also, the availability of the facilities for seeking relief and redressal against this issue;
  7. Increasing awareness campaigns on all aspects of the issues.

The Bench has issued notices to the Secretary, Department of social welfare, Government of UTs of J&K and Ladakh and Member Secretary. JKSLSA to inform the HC. They are directed to submit a report concerning the steps taken regarding domestic violence or any other kind of violence being faced by the women on account of the implementation of the COVID-19 lockdown.

On Thursday, April 16, 2020, the bench took suo moto cognizance of the matter.