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How Are NGOs Supporting Domestic Violence Survivors During The Lockdown?

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The resulting lockdown after the coronavirus pandemic was a preventive measure to refrain from the destruction that the Covid-19, which marked its origin in Wuhan, China, has caused. Now, the virus is rapidly moving to large population without considering any differences between caste, class, gender, race, region, religion or whatever kind of differences it may be.

All over the world, the death toll has been increasing for months and a proper vaccination has not been found yet. However, nations and their governments have been taking several steps in order to take control over the disastrous effects of the virus. Lockdowns announced in China, Italy, Russia, India, Iran etc. were some of the major steps taken towards effectively preventing people from getting infected.

But as everything has its pros and cons, so has the lockdown on our economic, physical, social and mental lives. But let’s focus a bit more and observe its effects on the ‘vulnerable’ section of the population that includes senior citizens, women and children.

Many reports by research institutions mention how the pandemic has affected this population: senior citizens are facing a sense of loneliness as they feel more burdensome on their families than usual, children are facing a lack the educational facilities and outdoor exposure, and women are experiencing a hike in domestic violence, sexual harassment and abuse during the lockdown.

domestic violence
Representational image

Psychologically, women appear to be suffering more than men. From the most recent Kaisar Family Foundation survey, women were 16% more likely to say that coronavirus-related worry or stress has negatively impacted their mental health, compared to men (53% vs 37%). Compare this to a similar poll taken two weeks earlier, where this gender gap was just 9% (36% vs 27%). Two weeks earlier, there had been just a difference of 5% between genders (36% vs 31%), suggesting that mothers may be bearing a disproportionately large part of the burden as time goes on.

For women who are experiencing domestic violence, mandatory lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19 have trapped them in their homes with their abusers, isolating from the people and the resources that could help them. And this is the case for almost every country. The helpline numbers given for domestic violence survivors have themselves reported that they have been receiving more calls than usual during the lockdown.

Perpetrators are threatening to throw their victims out on the street so they get sick,” Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, told TIME. A member of the Indian women helpline stated that “the survivors have been complaining of abuse.” While some are justifying these complaints along with an explanation — for instance, the lockdown has created pressure on the minds of ‘breadwinners’ and this must be a reason why they are venting out their frustration on their ‘loved ones’. But, does these count as a valid reason to oppress or abuse anyone?

A similar situation has been explained by Ray Jones, “We know that domestic violence is rooted in power and control.” She added, “Right now, we are all feeling a lack of control over our lives and an individual who cannot manage that will take it out on their victim.” She said that while the number of cases of abuse may not rise during the coronavirus crisis, people who were already in an abusive situation will likely find themselves facing more extreme violence, and can no longer escape by going to work or meeting friends.

From Europe to Asia, millions of people have been placed under a lockdown, as the coronavirus continues to infect millions. But Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Women, stated to TIME that:

“The very technique we are using to protect people from the virus can perversely impact victims of domestic violence. While we absolutely support the need to follow these measures of social distancing and isolation, we also recognise that it provides an opportunity for abusers to unleash more violence.”

Jadavpur University students protesting against domestic violence
(Photo by Debsuddha Banerjee/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

One out of three women in the world experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organisation, making it “the most widespread, but among the least reported, human rights abuses.” While men, too, experience domestic violence, women make up for the majority of the survivors. However, during times of crises such as natural disasters, wars and epidemics — the risk of gender-based violence takes a toll.

In China, the number of domestic violence cases reported to the local police tripled in February compared to the previous year, according to Axios.  Reports from third world countries are a wakeup call to the cases that are right now covered under the Covid-19 strata.

The coronavirus crisis, as it expectedly pushes the world economy into a recession, will also result in a budget cut of social services, including help for survivors of domestic violence. Organisations fighting domestic violence are developing new strategies to support victims under the lockdown.

Digital contact with victims during this time has been suggested, but it will be difficult for survivors to call while at home with their abusers. The helpline does offers services via online chat or texting, making it easier for victims to seek out help from home. Bhatia from United Nations Women has also called for governments to provide packages for paid sick leaves and unpaid care work in order to allow women facing domestic violence to maintain financial independence from their abusers. She added that in order for this public health response to be gender-sensitive, women will have to have decision-making power.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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