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Liquor And Domestic Violence: Quarantine A Nightmare

The inequality of women is a global phenomenon, although education is a pivotal factor for empowering women and limiting the spread of the pandemic, in many societies even women who are informed about ways to control infection are powerless to control the same. Women’s access to essential health services, such as those related to sexual and reproductive health, is likely to be affected by the increased restrictions on mobility and by the economic challenges that households are facing.

Additionally, reports have highlighted that the stay at home measures are placing women at risk of/or in abusive relationships at increased risk of domestic or intimate partner violence. Violence against women and girls is an abject violation of human rights. The derogation of human rights during a public emergency restricts the ability of individuals and civil society to challenge the human rights abuses that occur during an emergency.

The government decision to permit the sale of liquor not only negated social distancing norms on the outside, but it also posed a great threat to the well-being of women who are trapped inside in the lockdown. It is a widely-held belief that alcohol contributes to mood enhancement and alcohol myopia in men. Thereby, even if the policy decision is to boost the economy or to prevent withdrawal symptoms it certainly has made women more vulnerable. These two things go hand in hand, WHO has confirmed the relationship between alcohol and enhanced cases of domestic violence all over the world.

Thus, if domestic violence was a virus in itself, the lockdown has not only increased its breeding rate but has also morphed its DNA to make it a more tenacious variant. The victim is at the mercy of the abuser who can exercise constant surveillance by monitoring phones and can also not reach out authorities for help.

In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India 1978 AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621, The Hon’ble Supreme Court gave a new dimension to Art. 21 and held that the ‘Right to Live’ is not merely a physical right but includes within its ambit of the right to live with human dignity, which is certainly endangered in cases of domestic violence.

The fallacy of the government policy here is that it is presently gender-neutral and thereby needs modification. For instance, Spain and Portugal declared protection and assistance for victims of gender-based violence as essential services that operate during the lockdown. France financed 20,000 hotel bookings for women seeking refuge from domestic abuse and set up toll booths at groceries and pharmacies so women can contact people away from their abuser. Argentina, France, Italy, Norway and Spain adopted Mask-19 wherein a woman asking a pharmacist for this type of mask is a pseudonym for him to call for help.

Thus, it is imperative that our policy-makers adopt a gender perspective while analysing the effects of the coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown. Major legislative efforts are required to protect the vulnerable segments of the population.

The government needs to ensure that national and local response and recovery plans identify and put in place targeted measures to address the disproportionate impact of the virus on certain groups and individuals and thus ensure that reporting mechanisms, hotlines, emergency shelters and other forms of assistance which are accessible to women and girls. The initiatives mentioned above undertaken by other countries is a testimony to the fact that they are more susceptible and sensitive to lockdown implications on women. During a similar virus “SARS”, Singapore had enacted penalties for quarantine violation, it utilized its Security Services and electronic, in-home cameras.

While installation of in-home cameras requires infrastructure and financial resources, the Indian government has developed surveillance using the Arogya Setu app. Thus, surveillance is the need of the hour not only for keeping a check on the virus but the well-being of women and girls as well.


Priyanshi Sarin, 3rd Year Student from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

Editor: Vijayalakshmi Raju

You can contact the author at https://linkedin.com/in/priyanshi-sarin-68b591163


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