A total of 883 cases of domestic violence (DV) have been registered across different courts in Maharashtra by the Women and Child Development (WCD) department between April and September this year. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, data indicates that as many as 7,055 cases of domestic violence were registered by state WCD officials from April 2019 to March 2020.
State WCD officials said their helplines and the Chief Minister’s helpline had received more than 22,000 calls from women during the lockdown. However, inability of women to step out during the lockdown might have resulted in a dip in the number of cases of domestic violence being registered in the last six months.
State WCD Secretary I A Kundan told The Indian Express that across the state, a total of 37 ‘One Stop’ centres were functioning during the lockdown period. To prevent and address cases of domestic violence, the department had started the ‘Mala Bolayache Aahe’ helpline and also coordinated with police control rooms across districts and shared contact numbers of protection officers and social workers across the state, Kundan said.
A total of 6,571 women had sought help across the state, of which 3,448 were given general family counselling while 363 got medical call, 1,973 got psychological counselling and 532 got short term shelter facility. The CM’s helpline got as many as 16,842 calls from women requiring help for shelter, medical care and domestic violence. Measures were taken like developing an app ‘Stand up against violence’ in association with TISS while at the Pune Zilla Parishad, an initiative was launched to set up vigilance committees.
State WCD Deputy Commissioner Dileep Hirvale admits the number of cases of domestic violence during the last six months were comparatively less as women could not step out during the lockdown. There are 34 senior protection officers at district level and 358 junior protection officers at taluka level working towards preventing domestic violence. According to Pune district women and child development officer Ashwini Kamble, some women told them that it was difficult to make calls from within their homes, too, as the entire family was closeted together during the lockdown. “At one case a woman from Bhor taluka was thrown out of the home by her husband and she spent the entire night crying at her neighbour’s place. Because of the lockdown she could not step out. However, the protection officer was contacted who then connected with the sarpanch and police station officials at Bhor and ensured that the woman was able to go back to her home,” Kamble said.
Pune ZP vigilance panels help resolve over 800 complaints
At the Pune Zilla Parishad, CEO Ayush Prasad had directed the formation of village-level committees of women to take proactive steps to stop the incidents of domestic violence especially in the rural areas. “We involved self help groups and other grassroot workers. Our aim was to provide counselling and social support to the victims and if need be, involve such authorities like the police and the concerned protection officers as designated under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005,” Prasad said.
PhD research scholar Divya Chavan, who conducted a qualitative research study on the Pune ZP model and interviewed the vigilance committee members, said the complaints included instances of physical, mental, verbal, emotional and economic abuse by the husband and/or family members of the aggrieved woman. A total of 1,455 ‘Dakshata Samitis’ or vigilance committees were formed at every gram panchayat/village within the taluka in Pune district. Women were able to approach such persons to discuss their personal issues and problems. In order to efficiently handle the issues of domestic violence and provide effective counselling to the victim as well as the perpetrator, members of the samitis or committees are imparted training from time to time on various aspects of counselling. “So far, we have received 932 complaints where the vigilant committee members personally intervened in 832 incidents and tried to counsel and resolve the matter,” Prasad said.
Chavan, who conducted the qualitative study, said that it was observed that the reason why the women usually do not complain of domestic violence is due to the fear that they have that their family would be broken if they raised a voice and if people in the society would come to know about their domestic violence issues they would have had to deal with the stigma attached to victims. “They were also financially dependent on their husband and his family. Most of the victims only wanted the domestic violence to end so that they are able to continue their marital life,” Chavan said. “In most cases, women said due to effective counselling the families remained intact as many of the domestic issues were resolved,” Prasad said.
The study also found that in many places, the protection officers were not receptive and did not come to give timely help. “There should be a stronger nexus between the protection officer and the Dakshata Samitis. Further, it is required that more protection officers are appointed at the village level,” Chavan said.
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