New Delhi, Dec 25: Domestic violence against women remained a prime cause of concern for the Ministry of Woman and Child Development in 2020 with over 5,000 such complaints received in the year.
The National Commission for Women was flooded with complaints of domestic violence in March as the lockdown, imposed in view of the coronavirus outbreak, forced women to remain confined in their homes with their abusers.
The number of complaints went on increasing through the months and in July, a record number of 660 such complaints were received.
Over 5,000 complaints of domestic violence were received by the NCW in 2020.
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma has attributed the rise in complaints to factors like economic insecurity, financial instability and isolation among others.
“Victims of domestic violence are distanced from their regular support systems making it difficult for them to call out for help. The series of COVID-19 lockdowns in India reduced the opportunities of reporting of domestic violence cases,” Ms Sharma told PTI.
She said the lockdown incapacitated women by preventing them from moving to safer places in cases of violence and abuse, reduced contact with the natal family which is usually the first point of contact for the victim.
“The machinery under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act had not been identified as an essential service during the lockdown. Hence, protection officers and NGOs were not able to visit households of victims, and police officers being at the frontline to tackle COVID-19 were overstretched to help victims effectively,” she said.
Sharma said the NCW launched a WhatsApp helpline number for emergency response during the lockdown to deal with the increased number of complaints of domestic violence.
According to her, the NCW’s audio-visual media outreach program aims to create awareness about legal provisions for protection of women and to apprise women to approach the government through various helplines and institutional support.
Speaking about how the year 2020 has been for children, apex child rights body National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said education posed as the biggest problem for children in the country.
“We were not in the habit of educating our children online but when COVID-19 came it was a challenge. We, however, started overcoming it by different means and now the situation is improving. We succeeded in ensuring that children kept in touch with their schools whether it was private or government schools,” he said.
“The most important role played by teachers and anganwadis was to deliver midday meal at the doorsteps of children which was tremendous work done by them,” he told PTI.
On concerns that there may be a rise in the dropout rate of schoolchildren due to the pandemic, Kanoongo said having such apprehension even before the schools reopen is “not correct”.
“Once the schools reopen, we will bring the children to schools. And in fact online education has kept all children in touch with schools,” he said.
The NCPCR also came out with family-centric recommendations to combat child trafficking at “source, transit and destination hotspots” amid concerns over its rise post the COVID-19 lockdown.
The government developed a new standard operating procedure for care and protection of street children to strengthen the processes and interventions so that there should not be any child in a street situation and they should be with their families.