GENDER discrimination and domestic violence against women are common in India. The National Health Family Survey (NHFS-4) report revealed that close to 42% of men believed that a husband is justified in hitting his wife. It also states that one in every three women in India has experienced an emotional, physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
The problem of domestic violence intensified further during the extended periods of Covid-19-induced lockdowns. Being confined together in the small spaces led to higher instances of interpersonal abuse and violence. Staying at home also added to the hardships already faced by women. Women have a disproportionate burden to care for the house and family and to live with an abusive partner makes their situation more complex, putting their mental and physical health at risk.
The nationwide shutdown left many people without jobs and there was uncertainty over salaries, which led to stressful situations in families resulting in increased violence against women. The National Commission for Women (NCW), has recorded an over two-fold rise in gender-based violence during the period.
NGOs – a lifeline for women in distress
In the absence of a support system or proper solutions to assist such women, several non-governmental organisations offered support through helplines. The norms dictated a total shift to counselling through phones and on online platforms, which also highlighted the inequalities of access to communication channels. Despite challenges, nonprofits continued to assist the victims of violence and women at-risk by addressing their desolation from a distance.
Here are some initiatives started by leading NGOs for victims of domestic violence.
Headed by renowned advocate and women’s rights activist Flavia Agnes, Majlis started in 1991 as a response to a growing need for lawyers with a gender perspective, dedicated to seeking innovative legal solutions to defend women’s rights.
Through its programme, ‘Rahat’ Majlis provides socio-legal support to victims of sexual and domestic abuse. The all-women team of lawyers and social workers meets victims, understands their needs, offers legal consultation and presents them with the legal options available and the pros and cons of their case. The victim is informed about the availability of public and private schemes such as shelter, education and medical support and legal aid is provided as required.
Your support will ensure that domestic violence victims have the means to fight for their rights and make an attempt at a better life.
Sapna was formed when a group of professionals who wanted to work on a people-centric model of development in public health, education, women’s empowerment, community development and social welfare came together.
Sapna runs multiple programmes in Alwar, Rajasthan, and Delhi counselling women in distress and families. In cases of rape and divorce, Sapna helps victims through information and guidance to take necessary action. The team stays in touch with the beneficiary to check their well-being and continue counselling.
Other programmes by Sapna include assistance and shelter to trauma patients at AIIMS and Safdarjung hospitals in Delhi, home for the destitute in Alwar and Delhi, and workshops in schools on women’s rights, domestic violence, child sexual abuse etc. in order to raise awareness among young girls.
Apnalaya works with the most underprivileged communities dwelling in the slums of Mumbai. In operation since 1973, its Family Counseling Centre (FCC) is a haven for victims of exploitation, violence, infidelity, deprivation and blackmail. Here, they find a friend who listens, offers advice and helps them find the strength to fight and win their legal and personal battles.
Its various programmes support victims of domestic violence and family conflict through counselling, support group meetings, creating community counsellors, and raising awareness on women’s issues. Apnalaya is a government-appointed service provider under the Domestic Violence Act 2005.
ActionAid India is part of a global federation and an affiliate of ActionAid International that has presence in over 40 countries worldwide.
Through its programme Gauravi, ActionAid provides support to victims of sexual and domestic abuse. Gauravi is their 24X7 crisis centre for female victims of any age, as well as minor boys. The abuse victims are provided with counselling, intervention, legal help, medical help, shelter home and social rehabilitation.
The centre is set up in a government hospital to make it easier for women to approach them. For cases of domestic violence, counselling is done and sessions are held with the family to understand problems. In severe cases, legal aid is provided free of cost. The programme also runs a temporary shelter home for victims and provides tele counselling.
Sayodhya is an initiative started in 2010 by a group of women after witnessing increased incidences of violence against women and their children, leading to destitution, desertion and homelessness. They established a temporary home and a refuge centre for women and children escaping a range of abusive situations – physical, sexual and emotional.
Sayodhya helps women in distress by providing emergency response through its 24-hour emergency helpline, arranging for emergency shelter, counselling family members to resolve issues, and in critical cases, taking them to women protection cells.
The shelter staff closely collaborates with law enforcement agencies and judicial officials to ensure that survivors have access to protection, entitlements and other legal measures. Strengthen the efforts of Sayodhya Home for women in need by donating.
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Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.