As heat rises in India, so does domestic violence — Global Issues


  • Opinion by Umang Dhingra (New Delhi, India)
  • Inter Press Service

For the third summer in a row, temperatures in India have broken historic records. recent record high of 52.9° C (127.22° F), has led to loss of livelihood, water rationing, health effects and even death. The heat is affecting some more than others. With people advised to shelter in place, people in lower economic strata have dealing with cramped living situations, lack of air conditioning and power outagesWomen are hit the hardest. New Delhi Heat Action Plan (HAP) records their greater vulnerability – noting, for example, their greater susceptibility to heat illness compared to men, the increased risks for pregnant people, and the greater expectations of women to be caregivers. But it fails to mention the increased threat of violence.¬¬¬¬¬¬ It is well documented that extreme temperatures lead to an increase in domestic violence, with low-income women bearing the brunt. In South Asia, for every degree the temperature rises, domestic violence increases by about 6%.

As India grapples with its large carbon footprint, rising temperatures and growing population, intimate partner violence can be expected to increase dramatically. In particular, if greenhouse gas emissions are not effectively regulated, India could see a spike in domestic violence. of more than 20% by the end of the centuryExtreme temperatures are associated with frustration, aggression and disruptions in people’s daily routines. Researchers theorize that this is the reason why heat has such a strong influence on intimate partner violence.

For low-income daily wage earners in India, heat can lead to loss of livelihood and income. Economic stress and the resulting anxiety can significantly increase the risk of domestic violence. In addition, women are expected to provide for the family, which gives them little chance to escape from abusers and increases their vulnerability in extreme circumstances. This phenomenon was widespread during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the “shadow pandemic” of domestic violence women across India affected.

The pandemic has also revealed strong patterns of economic abuse of women due to unequal power dynamics within the family. Despite research showing this, the spike in domestic violence during heat waves remains a secret. New Delhi Heat Action Plan (HAP) does not mention gender-related violence once in 66 pages.

While it recognizes women as a vulnerable group and addresses the increased risk during pregnancy, other risks to women remain shrouded in the vagueness of “social norms” and “gender discrimination.” Failure to explicitly address the threat of intimate partner violence leaves out an important piece of the puzzle. The omission has multiple consequences. It scares policymakers away from confronting the problem, leaving a gap in policymaking at the highest levels. It sets government officials tasked with implementing plans, such as New Delhi’s HAP, up for failure.

With no guidelines on how to deal with the predictable increase in domestic violence during extreme heat, the government can offer little support to women who need it. Mahila Panchayats (“women’s councils”) and grassroots non-profit organizations often help rural and poor women find support and participate in the community, but extreme weather events can cut them off from these resources.

Forced to stay indoors and unable to access help, women have little refuge or respite. In theory, India’s laws protect them. But in practice, implementation is spotty, leaving them vulnerable. India’s climate policies must not leave women out in the cold. New Delhi’s Heat Action Plan and other policy initiatives must protect women and provide them with accessible support. First responders and government workers must be given the tools they need to help those at risk of domestic violence, not just during heat waves, but all year round.

Finally, India’s domestic violence problem may be exacerbated during summers, but it is not unique to them. India needs a range of policies and concrete actions to address rising IPV, starting at the grassroots level and prioritizing education, employment, economic stability and family planning for all. Heat waves and the stressors they bring may be unpredictable in some ways, but rising temperatures and increased domestic violence are entirely predictable effects of climate change. There is no excuse not to address them.

By leaving women vulnerable year after year, we do a disservice to both the women who need help and the institutions they rely on.

Umang Dhingra is a graduate student at Duke University and a Stanback Fellow at the Population Institute, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that advocates for reproductive health and rights.

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