A parallel pandemic - domestic violence - has emerged along with COVID-19 as an increasing number of women and children stay indoors during the lockdown.
Countless women are now trapped at home with their abusers, and have no release - they are cut off from their friends, or can’t even move to a safer place like their parents’ home.
To help these women in distress, the Central and state governments have launched a dedicated helpline, 181, to address complaints around domestic violence and gender abuse.
In April 2020, the National Commission of Women came out with a special WhatsApp helpline number, 7217735372, using which women can report a case immediately by sending a message on WhatsApp.
NCW witnessed a spike in complaints around domestic violence, in the first week of the lockdown. According to data on their website, the total number of complaints received in this financial year is alarming – 5,187 cases, out of which 35 complaints have been registered under Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, in Tamil Nadu.
IPS Additional Director General of Police Tamil Nadu said the state police department was working round the clock to address the complaints they receive from women, in the shortest possible time.
In Coimbatore, the district administration, social welfare department, and police have joined hands to rescue these women from their perpetrators.
By calling the helpline number 181 and sending a message on the WhatsApp helpline, women can ensure immediate assistance. Once a complaint is received, the victims of violence are provided shelter, legal medical assistance, and counselling.
The messaging facility is a blessing for those women who aren’t comfortable making a phone call, due to a threat to their lives.
Women right activists have always favoured helplines to assist women and provide them easy access for redressal. This step might go a long way in ensuring more cases of domestic violence and abuse are reported.