Published on March 8, 2021
International Women’s Day
Ahmedabad: Sonal Myatra, a counsellor for 181 Abhayam helpline in Vastrapur area of Ahmedabad, was eight-month pregnant when the lockdown was announced in March last year. “I was asked by my family to take a leave as it was a very valid reason. But the spike in calls during the pandemic made me realize that the women in distress also need me,” recounts Sonal. “Thus, my child also accompanied me as I counselled teenage girls, intervened in domestic feuds and sought police help when teary-eyed women refused to go back home.”
While the suicide by Aisha Makrani, 23, after a heart-wrenching video brought the rampant issue of domestic violence and dowry harassment to fore, the figures of Abhayam 181 helpline reveal that during the pandemic month they received, on an average, one call for domestic violence every 10 minutes, recording 21% rise compared to the previous year.
“In such a scenario, the counsellors ensured safety of their loved ones, while never flinching from going out to help women,” said Jashvant Prajapati, COO of EMRI Gujarat, adding that many had their family members infected by virus, had co-morbidities or other personal issues, but they put themselves work before their personal lives.”
For example, Arti Thakor, a counsellor with Abhayam in Patan district, remained away from her two-year-old son Atharva for two months. “My husband worked as driver for 108 ambulance. Thus, we had to maintain safe distance from him even when we wanted to hug him, play with him,” she said.
Painful Pandemic for Women
16.5% rise in domestic violence issues in a year for Ahmedabad district. The figure was 34% for Rajkot, 4.4% for Vadodara and 4% for Surat
12% rise in extramarital affairs in a year in Ahmedabad district. The figure was 38% for Rajkot, 12% for Surat and 11.5% for Vadodara
600% rise in dowry related harassment in Panchmahals, followed by 500% in Bharuch, 400% in Botad. Districts recorded higher increase compared to major cities