Letter to National Commission for Women
Ms. Rekha Sharma
Dear Ms. Sharma
ICWM is a national movement of Christian feminists from different Christian denominations in India. We are an independent national movement, not coming under any specific Church, institution or organisation. We are committed to building gender justice in our Churches and in society at large and we address concerns related to this through our units in different parts of India.
Domestic violence has been termed the ‘shadow pandemic’ in this time of lockdown in many parts of the world and like you, we too are deeply concerned about the situation of women and children. Stressful situations resulting from the lockdown like confinement within the limited household space, anxieties about losing employment, debts and lack of basic amenities all contribute to aggravating violence against women and children, who are most vulnerable in these circumstances.
We are aware that the National Commission of Women acknowledges ‘Violence Free Home’ as a ‘Women’s Right’ and has initiated a joint programme with the Delhi Police and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Mumbai to address this issue. While we highly appreciate such initiatives, we feel it is time now to intensify and extend such programmes, so that women and other vulnerable sections in our society feel the assurance that they are not alone.
It is time to ensure that more frontline specialist services of the police and other government machinery remain open and accessible to women and others who are increasingly vulnerable to violence. In fact responding to Domestic Violence needs to be classified as an ‘essential service’ by the government. There is an urgency to open up alternative accommodation facilities to assist women and children who are battered and coping with life-threatening situations. And to apply the Pune model nationally – sending perpetrators into institutional quarantine. It is time to initiate new campaigns, so that women and other vulnerable groups feel supported and capacitated to address the experience of violence in their lives.
We urge you to act forcefully so that the existing legal frameworks and other systems like helplines are activated to disable the normalization of gender violence in this country. We offer any help we can give to deal with this situation, like accompanying women affected by violence, through telephonic support or any other means that our members can be of assistance with.
With all good wishes in these testing times,
Dr Aruna Gnanadason, ICWM National Convener,
National Team: Dr Kochurani Abraham, Marcia D'Cunha, Rev Dr Jayachitra Lalitha, Dr Joycia Thorat, Dr Lalnghakthuami, Sushma Ramswami & members of ICWM