The government and its machinery are working for women who seek protection — Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani sought to send out this message through a video-conference on Wednesday with institutes associated with her Ministry.
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The appeal comes at a time gender rights activists and the U.N. have called for the need to boost helplines, psycho-social support and online counselling as well as demanded that these be declared essential services so that women in distress can continue to access help. The National Commission of Women has recorded a more than two-fold rise in domestic violence and sexual assaults and a three-fold increase in cases of police apathy in the first week of lockdown since March 24.
Ms. Irani instructed officials of her Ministry to ensure that One Stop Centres, which provide legal and psycho-social help to survivors of gender-based violence, are linked with local medical teams, police and the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) so that their services are not impacted due to restrictions on movement. Nearly 1,000 people joined the video conference live, including the staff members of One Stop Centres, as well as shelter homes for women in distress (Swadhar Greh, Ujjwala homes) and Working Women Hostels.
“One Stop Centre teams must also be linked with NIMHANS,” Ms Irani suggested to equip counsellors across the country to deal with the unique problems faced by women.
“Under lockdown, we must use digital governance to ensure safety of women which must be replicated at the State-level and with NGOs so that there is no deficit of either information or help,” Ms Irani said, ordering a senior official to hold a discussion with a State every second day.
She also urged NGOs to try to ensure that every individual calls at least 10 women every day so that “women know that they are not alone”.