Hon’ble Union Minister
Ministry of Women and Child Development,
Dr Rajendra Prasad Rd, Rajpath Area,
Central Secretariat, New Delhi 110001
Dr. Harsh Vardhan
Hon’ble Union Health Minister
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,
Near UdyogBhawan Metro Station,
Maulana Azad Rd,
New Delhi, Delhi 110011
Subject: Representation seeking immediate measures/methods to address the issue of increasing domestic violence cases and distressed women and children amid COVID-19 lockdown.
Respected Madam & Sir,
- Apart from the public health crisis due to COVID-19, looms large another public health and social crisis i.e. Domestic Violence, also referred to as “Intimate Terrorism” by many. Escalating data suggests that “domestic abuse/violence” is acting like an opportunistic infection, flourishing in the conditions created by the pandemic.
- Taking note of the seriousness of the issue, the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. AntónioGuterres has called upon nations to also consider the safety of women as a priority in view of worldwide surge in domestic violence in this pandemic in his recent Tweet.
- Multiple online and newspaper reports establish that not only in India, but countries such as China, Australia, the U.K., USA etc. are witnessing a horrific surge in domestic violence cases since the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdowns. Needless to mention that the health impact of this violence on women/children are significant. It results in injuries, serious physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems, including sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and unplanned pregnancies.Lockdown can’t mean that you save people from a virus, but you expose them to other forms of violence. The police is not the first port of call for victims of domestic violence and, therefore, alternative arrangements have to be put in place. This will be a long lockdown and the government must ensure resources to help women in distress, health services to women and abortion are included as essential services.
- While the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented, it’s left many victims of domestic and family abuse inside their homes with their abuser - all day, every day - as people isolate to prevent the spread of the virus. Stress, potential job/economic losses, the disruption of social and protective networks, and decreased access to services all are essential factors in the rise of domestic violence. As distancing measures are being extended and places are being sealed, the situation is worsening. Women have less contact with parents, siblings, friends, work colleagues etc. who may provide support and protection. As resources become more scarce, women are being subjected to verbal/physical abuse. Perpetrators of abuse are using restrictions due to COVID-19 to exercise power and control over their partners to further reduce access to services, help and psychosocial support from both formal and informal networks.
- As an NGO working in the sphere of human rights, we have received numerous oral complaints from victims of domestic abuse/violence. We have been personally contacted by few women who have been victimized and brutalized by their partners and in-laws and are stuck in their houses with nowhere to go and no help available immediately. Women and children are further scared to inform the police since there are no rescue measures or other designated domestic violence shelter homes available immediately where they can be shifted to. The local police/authorities are faced with the challenge of enforcing the lockdown/sealing, therefore, regular channels to report domestic violence through police/courts and remedies seem far-fetched and remote at this point.
- There has been a considerable increase in cases of domestic violence as per NCW data. In the wake of reports of domestic violence during the lockdown period, many states such as Kerala have made a whatsapp number available for this cause. It was in order to address an anticipated rise in violence against women that France announced that it would pay for 20,000 hotel bookings and contribute €1 million to organisations that fight domestic abuse as well as set up assistance points at grocery stores, hospitals and pharmacies.
- In such rare circumstances, the concerned ministries like the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women & Child and the Broadcasting Ministry can work in tandem with Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), National Commission of Women and other affiliated bodies to widely publicize this issue. While recognizing that COVID-19 has placed an immense burden on health systems, there are few suggested measures that can help mitigate the impacts of violence on women & children during this pandemic:
- Governments and policy makers should widely publicize and disseminate information on this issue, its implications on Television, radio, Social Media, Twitter, Via SMS, Whatsapp, tele-calls and all helpline numbers locally which are operational and responsive 24/7;
- Freetele-counselling campaigns be planned and executed by teams of Psychologists/Psychiatrists which can be widely advertised and circulated in Newspapers, Television, Radio and Social Networking Sites like Facebook and Twitter. Even regular SMSs can also be sent to create awareness;
- Local area wise/colony wise hotlines, shelters, rape crisis centres and counselling numbers should be made functional for victims and they should be widely publicized so that a victim knows where to and what to do to find help;
- Allocate resources to help women in distress and health services to women and abortion to be included as essential services.
- Announcements in colonies/societies can be made to highlight this and to encourage people to check on their neighbours via videocalls, whatsapp, Facetime, phonecalls SMS’s. It is important to ensure that it is safe to connect with women when the abuser is present in the home;
- Identification and mechanism in place to relocate the victim to a safe place like a temporary shelter built in form of alternative accommodation, in case victims need to rush to a place;
- Private NGOs can be directed to collaborate with the Government to formulate a strategy and effective implementation of strategy so as to ensure that there is maximum outreach to resolve such cases and provide all day all night functioning system;
- Creation of a special corpus in order to meet the financial requirements in setting up hostel and transportation for victims. Like France and many other countries, the Government could consider releasing funds to dedicated NGOs in this sector;
- Set up assistance points at supermarkets and pharmacies.Also, ensuring that the helpline number 181 shall remain active and is widely publicized on News channels, Radio, SMSs;
- Police personnel be sensitized to this issue and providing them with the contact details of the concerned government agencies and NGOs who can provide immediate help, should anyone come to them directly complaining of domestic abuse/violence and
- Widely publicise initiatives like the “RED DOT” initiated by an organization called WEFT (Women Entrepreneurs For Transformation) Foundation under which citizens can identify a domestic violence victim by seeing a red dot on her palm andinform NGOs or authorities. This initiative launched a few days back has already received over 20 complaints of domestic violence from across the country.
- No state can claim to be a true welfare state when it takes care of its citizens while a segment of it is neglected, COVID-19 has thrown many challenges upon us and it is necessary that women & children subjected to domestic violence are protected from their attackers and thus it is extremely important that all steps and measures be taken to provide them a safe, stable, harassment free environment.
- Thus, requesting the concerned authorities to take cognizance of the above-mentioned suggestive measures in order to frame new guidelines to tackle Domestic Violence at the earliest. I also request for an opportunity of personal hearing/representation via videoconferencing to further highlight the issue. I request you to convey a suitable date and time in this regard. I request your good offices to respond to this representation within 3 days from the receipt of this representation in view of the urgency and grave issue stated in the representation.
- In case of any clarifications or concerns, please feel free to contact the undersigned on +91-9873005424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Global Chairman, All India Council
Of Human Rights, Liberties & Social Justice,
Global Chairman, International Human Rights Advisory council
Ms. Rekha Sharma
The Chairperson, National Commission of Women
Plot No.21, FC33 Jasola Institutional Area, Jasola,
New Delhi, Delhi 110025
Minister of Information and Broadcasting
Dr Rajendra Prasad Rd, ShastriBhavan,
Some links of articles demonstrating the rise in domestic violence are as follows: