Amidst Covid-19, Domestic Violence is on The Rise

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Juliet Nyang’ai

Domestic violence is broadly defined to include “all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence.’’ More often in time, many relate domestic violence to strictly the physical, but it is much more.

Domestic violence is any violent or aggressive behavior within the home; this includes all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence. The same acts can be committed by a family member or intimate partner. Domestic violence is criminal.

Upsurge of Domestic Violence Related Crime

There has been an upsurge of crime with the ongoing pandemic including domestic violence related crimes. The types of reported crimes have mutated with the enforcement of regulations put in place for the control of COVID-19.

In Kenya, a 5am to 7pm a nationwide curfew was invoked vide Legal Notice 36 of 2020. Some of the other Preventative measure that attracts a criminal penalty if broken includes; public transportation measures, uses of protective masks in public and cessation of movement into or out of certain counties.

The regulations create a criminal offence for breaching or obstructing any individual from carrying out a function under the regulations and to impose fines or imprisonment for any breaches.

Psychological Trigger of Crime

There is a direct link to social change and crime. Profound social changes give rise to crime. Societal change is a continuous process and very dynamic occurrence triggered by many factors. Since pandemics affect our social life, change has is thus inevitable. COVID-19 has therefore affect social changes in almost all spheres.

Social change is the fundamental alterations in the patters of culture, structure and social behavior over time. Covid-19 situation has paved way for a catalyst environment for some of the main causes of domestic violence. In an interesting twist, with domestic violence, the same triggers to domestic violence can also be the same causes to the same. This include; emotional distress, a change in eating and sleeping patterns, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression and lack of stress management.

Possibilities of Pandemic Related Causes to Domestic Violence

The social distancing rules, working from home dynamics, national curfew imposition, closure of public places including markets and entertainment places have domestic violence activators:

Increase in alcohol consumption – As a good number of people remain at home with the pandemic and a closure of bars and restaurants, there has been an increase on alcohol purchases and thus possibly a consumption of the same.

There has been reported a surge of alcohol sales; in the United States of America, the Nielsen Corporation, a global provider of market research and analysis tracked a 234% increase in online alcohol sales the seven weeks ending April 18, 2020 in comparison to the previous year.

Financial stress and Economic distress – The pandemic has had many a people to losing their employment, given birth to a loss of income or a reduction of the same thus paving way for economic distress.

Personal stress and lack of social support – Coupled with the already mentioned risk factors to domestic violence amidst the Pandemic, anger, hostility, trauma, low self esteem and depression are further risk factors for intimate partner violence perpetration. With the limited opening of entertainments and social places, there is increased risk of domestic violence with people confined to home and with unbent emotions and a lack of avenue venture.

The prolonged periods of being isolated with one’s victims or potential victims is another trigger for increased case of domestic violence. It is noteworthy that victims are of both genders but with majority being of the female gender. Even as both men and children are victims of domestic violence, there is increased threat to violence to women as some type of violence is meted out to women because they are women thus gender-based.

Family pets can also suffer domestic abuse and violence but as always, universally, animal abuse cases go unreported as compared to human cases.

Domestic Violence undermines Constitutionalism and Human Rights

The most popular defense in domestic violence is advancing of some social interest or belittling of the perpetrated crime through indication of a certain perceived right. Momentously, perpetrators of domestic violence might be under the mistaken guise that the pandemic is sufficient defense for their acts.

Domestic violence undermines constitutionalism, rule of law and human rights. Human rights are based on shared values like dignity, fairness, respect, equality and independence. These values are defined and protected by law and it should remain a stark reminder that the pandemic is not a justification for domestic violence crime.

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, nationality, sex, ethnicity, language, religion on any other status. Amidst the pandemic, it is vital to remember that the Constitution has not been suspended and rule of law reigns supreme above all else.

The author is researcher, consultant and Advocate of the High Court, Principal Partner at Juliet Nyangai & Company Advocates. She specializes in public international law, international criminal law and human rights. She has apt interest in forensic psychology and crimininology.

Ms J.O Nyangái can be reached on: Twitter: @nyangaij  Email: nyangaij@gmail.com

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