Spending too much time together, a triggering factor

Yangyel Lhaden

Although not as brutal as reported in other countries, the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), is seeing an increase in domestic violence cases in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The commission received 47 cases between January and April from Thimphu alone regarding women who needed immediate support like counseling, shelter and legal advice. Only 77 such cases were reported to the commission in the whole year in 2019.

Commission officials said the restrictions on movement and the impact of Covid-19 which forced many people to stay at home after losing jobs could be the reason. However, no studies were done to confirm.

The commission’s head for Protection Service, Yeshey, said that women and children are at increased risk during such times. “Women and children who have already been victims, having to stay in with the abuser is a major concern,” she added. “Spending too much time together could be a triggering factor.”

With schools closed, the commission also saw higher level of child negligence, which they said was leading to children coming in conflict with law. “We are trying to protect the children who have committed crime,” she said.

Another organisation related to women, the Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) is also receiving increased number of domestic violence cases.

Director of RENEW, Tshering Dolkar said that although domestic violence had been an issue among many couples, the frequency was increasing these days because they spent more time together. “Loss of jobs, economic abuse to partner followed by emotional abuse are the common reasons,” she said.

RENEW is re-prioritising their annual plans to cater to the needs during the Covid-19 pandemic. Module development trainings on gender-based violence is going to start.

Most of the domestic violence cases in the past were not reported to the concerned authorities fearing impunity, stigma and shame. “It is encouraging to see many cases being reported today,” NCWC’s Yeshey said. “It shows that women and children are intolerant to domestic violence and are empowering themselves which is our main goal.”