A day after she visited women and children in a slum in New Delhi, Second Lady of the U.S., Jill Biden interacted with women who have been victims of abuse and violence in Mumbai.

Dr. Biden’s interest in women and gender sensitive issues took her to the Dilaasa Crisis Centre which provides counselling to women facing domestic violence. The Centre, set up as a joint initiative of the BMC and Centre for Enquiry in to Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT), functions on the premises of Bhabha hospital, Bandra (W). Dr. Biden was accompanied by daughter Ashley and son-in-law Howard David Krein.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden was Senator under whose leadership the Congress recognised the severity of violence against women which resulted in a national strategy with the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994.

The U.S. Consulate had contacted Dilaasa members two months ago and told them that the Centre had been identified by Washington as one doing good work on gender-based violence. “The members of the Consulate came to our Centre and reviewed our work. Dr. Biden then visited us today and interacted with survivors who narrated their stories of violence and abuse and how they subsequently overcame the problems,” said Padma Deosthali of CEHAT.

The integrated programme of Dilaasa deals with domestic violence and sexual assault. Dr. Biden lauded the efforts of the Centre because it served as the first respondent in case of assault, being located in the civic hospital premises.

Six women, who had overcome sexual and physical abuse, came forward and shared their experiences. One of them reached Bhabha hospital for treatment two years ago with assault injuries. A doctor realised it was a case of domestic violence and she was directed to Dilaasa for counselling.

In another case, a woman attempted suicide after being subjected to violence at the hands of her husband and sexual abuse by the brother-in-law. In both the cases, the women were empowered and went back home. The abuse has now stopped.

Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte, who was also preset at the meeting, said: “We realised in 2000 that there was a need to address the issue of violence against women. That was when we decided to set up Dilaasa,” the Commissioner said.